Monday over Coffee: Story

Need a Word of Encouragement?

His clothes were pressed, well-tailored, and he remained elegantly put together though he felt the weight of his eight decades, especially this early in the morning. He cleaned his rimless spectacles with a handkerchief, then set them a quarter of the way down his broad nose, this being their natural resting place. Before putting the handkerchief away, he folded it with the close care his rigorous sense of symmetry demanded, then performed exactly the same operation on a larger scale with the quilt on his bed. His clear gray eyes then darted around the dark room as if he was looking for something good. They landed on the succinct correspondence he'd penned last night and taped to the mirror over the dresser, next to the photo of his youngest grandson hitting a baseball.

He sat on the edge of the bed and bent down with effort to tightly tie the laces of his polished shoes before he rose, again with effort, to his full height. Then with his dress Stetson in one hand, he took up a small battered suitcase roughly the size and shape of a vaudevillian stage prop in the other, and vacated the room unsentimentally. He resolved to make no utterances today beyond those essential to secure the logistics of his trip.

Feeling obliged toward the stealth his plan required, he shut the door behind him softly and craned his neck to look down the long corridor. A fragment of his constitution fought the vulnerability of the first steps, but his hesitation quickly yielded under the tonic of decisive motion. The old man could still move with alacrity over good surfaces. The halls were dark, but the odors of rubbing alcohol he associated with the residential wing began to mingle with fugitive scents from the dining area, confirming the accuracy of his movements thus far. He turned right, then left, swiftly advancing past the portraits of the home's most avid benefactors. The click of his shoes against the hardness of the checkered floor worked against his covert aims, but halfway to the exit, he'd remained undetected.

In the main hallway now, he knew the closed circuit camera had captured his image, so he exchanged his furtive strategy with one which valued speed and suggested certainty. One obstacle remained. Nearing the front, he nodded affably at the new security guard whose inaction would be written up tersely in a report for the file later this morning. The corners of the old man's narrow lips turned upward softly, his poised demeanor holding the befuddled young man in his chair behind the desk. Upon review hours later, the grainy images on the videotape which captured the exchange would prove incapable of registering the complexity of the old man's features. In true life, they were reminiscent of a retired mathematician in one aspect, a hard-bitten farmer in the other. The administrators who observed the footage would all arrive at the same conclusion: if the old man wasn't in charge of his faculties, he'd at least convinced himself it was so. The pictures showed not a wanderer, as was the usual case when a resident was found along the hallways at this absurd hour, but a lanky sure-footed figure who moved straight ahead as if he had an important appointment to keep.

The double glass doors opened automatically. The camera mounted under the porte-cochere was focused directly where he stood. The old man stared straight into the lens with a casual defiance. Then, with a bare wink, he secured the rolled brim of his hat, and waved it cordially before placing it squarely on his head and stepping out of the frame.
We are story-telling animals. Our minds are hardwired to want to learn what happens next. Where's the old man going? What's in the note? Will his escape succeed? Is any of this a good idea? The reason we sit up when someone begins to tell a story is because curiosity douses our brains with dopamine, suspecting something needed can be learned for our survival or enrichment. As Lori Cron, the author of Wired for Story tells us, stories aren't for escaping reality, they're for navigating reality.

Scripture is full of stories. Imagine that. It's as if God knew what we needed to survive, even thrive, and how to deliver it. This week, in this time of uncertainty, think back to your favorite story-driven Biblical narrative, or maybe a favorite edifying film, play, or book. Revisit its wisdom. God might just be revealing to you a better path ahead.


Thank you for stories. Let us listen, read, and follow them anew for guidance around, over, through the obstacles we now face. Help us to feel even uncertainty as a compelling curiosity, a door to enrichment, and a path ahead, toward You. Amen.

—Greg Funderburk

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