As I drove home from Rothesay tonight, I was listening to the static on Radio 4, which was occasionally interrupted by Front Row. In one such interruption, a play was being reviewed: promising premise, stunning cast, but not quite what the reviewer had hoped for. When asked where it went wrong she said: ‘there’s a fabulous cast of characters, but at some point as a writer, you need to look at that and say “whose story am I going to tell?” You have to know what everything else revolves around.’
(apologies if this is not what she said. It is what I heard.)
And as soon as I heard it, I knew there was something there for me; something I needed to hear.
I haven’t been blogging much lately precisely because I haven’t known whose story to tell.
A priest’s life is highly populated with stories. The stories of scripture, the stories of the congregations, the stories of each member of the congregations. Stories of friends. Stories of mentors. Stories of our own lives; stories we hide from.
So whose story do you tell?
When I first heard the comment on Front Row, I went into ‘priest mode’ (call me on heresy later. This post is not on theology). I began mentally drafting a post on the theme ‘the story we tell is Christ’s.’
And that is true. But it is too easy.
So, the next imaginary post was: ‘to tell Christ’s story you need first to be able to tell your own.’
And that is true too. But it still misses the mark somehow. It leaves the door too wide on self-limiting stories, self-fabricated stories that don’t really lead us any further into Christ.
So, I began to wonder: what if it’s not ‘whose story do I tell’ but ‘who do I tell’?
Three times in the past two months I have been with people who know me so well that there is no need for story. There is no need to give context, or build defences. No need to tidy things up.
Those people leave me free to speak the things I find hard to admit. They help me feel the things I hadn’t even realized were there to feel. And only a few things need to be spoken for much to be understood.
Right now I can’t tell my story, because my head is full of theirs. Or rather of ours. Of 20, 25 years of friendship which is finally stripped of pretence and has emerged as something true.
So maybe that is Christ’s story after all.
You three, who should know who you are: Thank you.