Book Review (Part 2)
I had so much to say reviewing Living God’s Story of Grace that I ran out of room to discuss a major theme of the book: story. Turnage encourages the reader to learn and rehearse God’s story of grace. I briefly mentioned in my first review how I appreciate this theme that is woven throughout the book. Each chapter provides a Bible study highlighting God’s redemption of his people. Her questions help us relate our own stories to this redemptive theme. We see that every story of redemption in the Bible ultimately points to our Ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ. This amazing metanarrative gives meaning and purpose to the “therefores” that direct our living.
I particularly enjoyed how Turnage encourages us to tell our own stories in Chapter 3, Story Feasting. We might merely use storytelling as a means of entertainment. Or maybe we think that sharing our stories is arrogant. Sure, there are different motives for sharing—it can be a very man-centered activity. Us reformed folks often stifle testimony time in fear of this, and the subjective nature it can foster. We do need to be cautious in these areas. God’s Word is authoritative, not our stories. And yet our experiences confirm God’s glorious promises. It stimulates our faith to look at God’s track record. Remembering God’s goodness from the past stirs up our courage to face today. Sharing our stories in a godly way fosters Christ’s Spirit so that we will not be discouraged and give way to despair when similar trials occur.
Turnage encourages us that “Sharing our stories is essential to growing in faith, hope, and love because it helps us to remember redemption and to focus on future hope” (356). Some people are private or perhaps just too shy or embarrassed to share their stories. Have you ever considered withholding your story as a selfish act? Have you noticed that we are using the word share to describe this act of love? Here are some more reasons that Turnage gives to promote purposeful, godly story sharing:
Listening to other’s stories draws us to know and love them in new ways. Sharing our own stories is a gift of love to other people (Loc. 378).
As followers of Christ, we gather to offer our own stories to God and our community, naming both the tragedy and redemption of our narratives. Sharing our stories and hearing other’s stories strengthens our faith, increases our hope, and compels us to move into a hurting world with love. Story feasting deepens the bonds of community and propels the mission of love that marks us as Christians (Loc. 390).
Since this book is to be used for a women’s study, Turnage sets up a very focused way for the group to share their stories: at a meal! She offers very clear guidelines for how to “story feast.” In preparing your story, you must remember it’s purpose. She notes that it doesn’t have to sound overly spiritual, but we need to keep in mind the goal is to glorify God. Secondly, we are encouraged to tell our story honestly. This means we need to have a willingness to examine our own heart and motives, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work and the response of others. Of course, Turnage gives us the needed warning to tell our story honorably, being truthful about our pain, but resisting the temptation toward gossip and slander.
There are even guidelines offered for the listener. How do you listen with integrity? Well, first of all by actually paying attention with compassion. Participate. Take part in what is going on here. And honor the story-teller by keeping their privacy.
As you are preparing your story, Turnage does such a great job in really getting you to reflect on the whole process. When you share a story off the cuff there can be some wonderful benefits. But given the opportunity to prepare it before hand adds to both your own edification and those who will be listening. As you see it written on paper, you can identify the themes of sin, grace, and redemption more clearly. We can see how our own story is woven into God’s great drama of redemption. After we share our story, Turnage encourages us to revisit it, thinking about the responses you received. This also is a good time to pray for other’s who shared.
Turnage said something early in the book that I connected with right away: “We learn, understand, and grow as we write” (Loc. 89). I have found this to be so true in my own life. In this hurried, fast food culture that we find ourselves in today, we have lost some of the opportunities to sit across the table and share. I love the idea of purposefully incorporating this practice in a small gathering. You may not think of yourself as a writer, and that’s fine. I don’t think of myself as a chef, and yet I prepare at least three meals a day for a family of five. There are so many creative ways to prepare and share our stories for the glory of God. This book offers great guidelines and motivation to do so.