Main Point: We spend our lives in a community of stories. And that is a good thing.
I remember picking up Richard Adams’ Watership Down years ago and quickly setting it down again: not interested in rabbit tales. But under the tutelage of Stanley Hauerwas’ A Community of Character (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981) I recently reread it and found myself fascinated by the role of story in shaping community. Hauerwas used Watership Down to help explore and articulate the role of narrative in social ethics.
One of the recurring themes in Watership Down was that when security was absent (as is nearly always true for rabbits), stories told in the relative safety of their burrows helped them adjust to a new condition or even just regain courage when all seemed lost. These were stories of clever rabbits who outwitted enemies. The stories told among the rabbits helped solidify plans for the leaders even as they enthralled and soothed the rank and file.
This story about stories is not far from my own experience. The ups and downs of life take on a fuller perspective over a lifetime of rereading David’s psalms. Hearing David and other psalmists talk about the very points I experience is both satisfying and courage-building. Especially when I see and hear the psalmist come out the other side of those troubles because of being rescued by God.
These are precisely the stories we need to tell each other today—especially in difficult economic times. Especially in an uncertain world where danger seems to be all around.