A tricky situation
Some years ago, one of my daughters was a bit sweet on a boy who lived in our local neighbourhood. At first, I thought she was just going out to play with his sisters, but then I could see that she was openly flirting with the lad even though she was only about eight years old at the time.
Whenever she saw him, she would go outside and hang around. But it wasn’t until a chance observation that I realised this boy was treating my daughter appallingly. In addition to his nasty behaviour toward her, he was using her affection to get her to do whatever he wanted. I tried talking to her about the issue, but she just couldn’t see it.
Why lectures don’t work
In the West we pride ourselves on Greek logic and rational thinking. Christians in particular are caught up in this and so we teach truth via clear explanations and facts.
But it doesn’t work.
Be honest. How many sermons can you remember? How many lectures from your parents can you remember? In fact, how many of your university lectures can you remember?
If you do remember anything then I can pretty much guarantee it is because you remember a story or illustration or you remember how you felt.
You see information is great for the mind but it doesn’t engage the soul.
Facts are dry and don’t engage the heart whereas stories draw you in and teach concepts in a much deeper way than ever “objective” facts could hope to do. This is the Hebrew way of life – sharing their collective redemption story with their children.
For example, telling their children the story of Israel’s redemption through the Passover meal (Ex 12:24-27) or telling their children the story behind the memorial stones placed by the river Jordan (Josh 4:2-7). Indeed much of the Bible is written as narrative/story of God’s interaction with people and then Jesus primarily taught truth through parables.
Stories, unlike facts, draw us in and invite our participation whether they’re true or fictional.
A great example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 10:25-37). What more needs to be added to the narrative that would help us understand the Father’s love? It perfectly carries the message as is.
You see parables aren’t merely illustrations for the message – they are the message.
It is imperative that we let the story do its job and don’t reduce it to a moral.
Those who tell the best stories will have the most power. Many criticised C S Lewis for “wasting time” writing the Narnia books. But history tells us the power these stories have had in shaping and inspiring people.
This is why Hollywood holds so much power – they are telling stories which influence people far more than a church that simply shouts truth. This is also why “Christian movies” have often been weak: they are so concerned about getting the message across clearly that they neglect the story.
How a story set my daughter free
Facts and warnings weren’t reaching my daughter and so I needed something else that would communicate the danger of giving her affection to someone who was mistreating her.
So I made up a story called “The Princess and the Crocodile” where a princess who loves animals wants a crocodile but her father refuses saying it won’t be a good pet because it won’t love her back. So she decides to go to the river and…well, let’s just she gets in a sticky situation…
This opened her eyes to the reality of her situation and now five years later, I’ve expanded the tale, and have released it as an ebook to help other parents teach their children to realise how precious their love is. It is my prayer that it will help children to only give their heart to those who will value it.
You might also enjoy this post on speaking to children’s hearts (not their minds).