Stories: We Know Ourselves by Knowing Our Place
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
Good morning! We hope you are well today!
This fall, we are Seeing Our City at Kaleid, as we lean into three words to help us see Atlanta better: Soil, Stories, and Systems. Recently, we’ve been talking about soil here on the blog. Today we turn to stories.
Why do the stories of our city matter?
In part, they matter because the kingdom-coming work of God in communities is a hidden and slow-growing work. It is the work of seeds and yeast and salt. God’s life, intersecting with the beauty and the pain of any given city, is a life that unfolds over time—organically.
We bear witness to the unfolding of God’s kingdom coming as we come to know the stories of our place.
Just like we know our own wounds and strengths by knowing the stories of our families of origin, we know the wounds and strengths of our community by understanding its stories.
Stories help us to know our place.
As we know our place, we can know ourselves within our place.
We can discern how the Spirit is inviting us to move into our places and connect with its stories to be kingdom-coming people.
Esther is a great example of this reality at work. Her cousin Mordecai made sure she knew the generations-old stories of Israel—the place from which she was exiled. She knew her “nationality and background,” consciously hiding it from the king. (Esther 2:10)
Mordecai also made sure she knew the stories unfolding around her in the city, even as she was cloistered away. He told her of his own mourning, of Haman’s treachery, of the king’s edict, and of the plight of her people. Mordecai knew that she would be able to locate herself within the stories of her ancestral city and those of her current home. He believed that she should be fully informed so that she could fully discern God’s invitation to her in that moment.
The crisis had a context, and the context was critical for Esther’s sense of how God was inviting her into His story.
Antisemitism had been growing for generations in Babylon. Haman’s treachery grew from a story of a life of self-promotion. Only when Esther knew these stories of her place did she know her own place within the stories. Because she knew the stories, she believed her cousin when he suggested, “who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Because she knew the stories, she found reason to lean into faith on behalf of her people.
Stories keep us grounded in our considerations of our community. They steer us away from platitudes and ideals and into the actual truth and beauty of our common life together.
They help us to remember what is important. Stories teach us to mark our history, our context, so that we can recognize God’s invitations to join the stories He is telling.
So, friends, here’s to listening more deeply to the stories of our cities.
Oh, and a quick bonus…a dear Kaleid woman sent this Oswald Chambers quote to a group of us this week, and we wanted to share it with you. It relates, a bit, in the sense that our listening to stories often invites us to ordinary ways of showing up, aware that we carry the light of God’s love into our cities with each step we take. So, here you go…
“Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he “followed him at a distance” on dry land (Mark 14:54). We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises - human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live 24 hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence, as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people – and this is not learned in five minutes.” – Oswald Chambers
The Kaleid Team
P.S. One of our favorite places to hear the stories of Atlanta is on the Archive Atlanta podcast!