During family gatherings at my home, we can depend on my cousin Ann, otherwise known as Ms. Candy, to tell the best stories.
Last Thanksgiving, Ms. Candy shared a story of how she went to a local deli and ordered a turkey hoagie with light mayo and extra onions. Opening the wrapping, she uncovered a tuna hoagie with extra mayo and light onions—the opposite of what she had ordered.
Disappointed and frustrated, she told the deli worker, “Sir, this is not the sandwich I ordered, but apparently this is the sandwich I need!” He responded laughingly, “I thought I was in trouble, but I’m glad you are happy with what was given to you!”
Ms. Candy rarely arrives at family gatherings without a captivating story. She keeps us on the edge of our seats with her ability to tell stories. Maybe it is her captivating Brooklyn accent that makes the stories come alive, or perhaps her overly dramatic movements make her family members sit at her feet as she shares powerful stories that make us laugh, cry and reflect.
During this season of Lent, I have been thinking much about the power of storytelling. Storytelling is a powerful way to engage those in the world around us. American author Nancy Duarte suggests that every story has an arc that starts with “what is” and ends with “what could be.”
The “what is” reminds us of the past and what is true. And the “what could be” represents the future, life without roadblocks.
As people of faith, we use this arc in our daily witness to spread hope, joy and love. We share “what is,” but then we move to “what could be.” When our children act out, we remind them of their present behavior—what is. We encourage them forward with our hopes for the future—what could be.
Likewise, a congregation can sometimes seem to be in conflict with its leaders—the “what is.” And yet, we are reminded of the power of unity and what can be achieved by working together—”what could be.”
The story of Christ reminds us during the Lenten season of “what is,” but most of all “what could be.” This eschatological hope for the future tells us that despite “what is,” we look to the promise of “what could be.”
No matter what you face during this season, be encouraged that God stands with you and has given you the tools to navigate “what is.” But most of all, God has prepared us for “what could be!”
*The Rev. William D. Carter, III, is Senior Pastor of Franklin St. John’s United Methodist Church in Newark. He is also a Meadowlands District Circuit Elder.