the sacred art of stories

I was well over 30 years old when it occured to me, as someone who had been homeschooled in part so that I would not be exposed to science, that the creation stories in Genesis could be myths. I’d never considered that before, all I knew was that I was suddenly questioning the ludicrious idea that the earth was created in six literal days. I wasn’t sure how to reconcile the fact that I no longer believed in young earth creation with the Bible, until I learned that the Bible wasn’t a book to be read literally, it was a library, a collection of texts of different genres by different authors.

I think tarot might have been my divination method of choice, the one I preferred and did my best work in, because of the stories, the images, the archetypes. Other divination methods tell stories also, but the accompanying images were something I enjoyed (this is not an advertisement for seeking out a reader. I don’t read anymore and I don’t recommend it). Much of the art of divination is being able to create good stories.

Storytelling is part of human nature, a very important part. Stories help us process and find meaning in things that have happened to us, listening to the stories of others help us to reevaluate our own beliefs when confronted with a story that goes against our deeply held beliefs. I didn’t come to know Jesus or be converted through any amount of Bible bashing. I was a good fundamentalist and supposedly knew what the Bible said about absolutely everything and I did my best to live that.

Right now, my personalities are telling me what happened to them, and they are using exisiting mythology to do so and it’s really quite elaborate. Putting the stories together to get to the central story has been very helpful to the process of our healing. The Bible is the same, really, a whole set of texts put together to help tell the greater story of God. Storytelling is a sacred art, and really even the stories of the people inside of me are part of the story of God in the world.

Stories are sacred because they offer hope and healing in ways that other things just can’t. Healing comes when we are honest with our own stories, when we let God in to change the stories, when we share the stories with others. Stories are a common language from ancient humans until now. Stories are as old as humanity and we have myths because of stories handed down from generation to generation. Stories change lives, and save lives. God is present in our stories.

Fiction is one way we tell stories, to develop scenarios to explore life the way it is or the way it could be. Mythology tells stories that are true even if they aren’t literally factual. My M.A. is in creative nonfiction, because personal essays and memoirs are powerful. I wrote down some of the stories my personalities told me when I was ten, but I was forced to stop and was told that my stories were stupid and that nobody wanted to read them. There was no way my parents wanted my personalities telling their stories, but they are telling them now. We are processing our trauma through story, we are inviting God into the story, we are realizing God’s part in the story to begin with.

We have come to a new liturgical year, and this Advent, I’m doing more to intentionally follow the stories that are being told about God, and I believe it will contribute to healing for us also. Advent tells the elaborate story of the incarnation of Jesus, through those boring geneologies spread throughout the Bible, through supernatural beings such as angels, through dreams, through family. There are myths and symbols and poetry and history. There are songs like Mary sang which is known as the Magnificat. Stories passed down by oral tradition.

I’m hoping me and my people will experience more healing as we journey through Advent, towards the coming of the Christ child, following the Holy Family whose story we can learn what family is supposed to look like. The liturgical year is important, we go from season to season, story to story, and God is everywhere present. As we open ourselves this year to the holy stories of the Bible, we know that these holy stories tell us what we need to know about God, but that our stories are also sacred and holy.

May we see God in all.

Published by MaryClare StFrancis

MaryClare StFrancis is a writer who sounds as boring as hell but who is intimately acquainted with the horrific and the sacred. For a long time, darkness has been her friend, but she now walks in the light of Christ. As a committed Episcopalian, her main contribution to the church is her ability to make the priests facepalm or swear, depending on the day and context. MaryClare has a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and lives in Mississippi with her four children.

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