I had the privilege this past week of attending a field trip with my son’s third grade class. It was held at a place called Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization that sends food to places around the world where children and families desperately need nourishment. We helped assemble, seal, and box the bags of food and also helped stick expiration date labels to the bags. It is a very efficient operation, and because it is so well run, they are also able to make it fun by blasting music in the assembly room and encouraging groups to make up a cheer when they get a box completed. Needless to say, it is a loud and energetic environment.

While my son and I challenged ourselves to see how quickly we could attach labels to bags, a particularly upbeat song came on and I started to do a little dance while labeling. This was easy to do since my son took the last chair and I was left standing! At that moment, I looked over and saw a young woman with special needs also beginning to move to the beat, and as we made eye contact we both started to laugh. She proceeded to walk over to my son and start rubbing his back. To his credit, he did not give her a mean look or tell her to stop, he just looked up to see who was touching him and then looked back at me with a shy look of amusement. She asked him a question and then came back over by me.

I continued to label, but soon this friendly lady asked me, “You know Toy Story?” And I replied, “Yes, I know the movie Toy Story.” She asked, “What’s your favorite character?” I thought about it for a moment and said, “I like Slinky, the dog.” She smiled and said, “Oh yeah, Slinky! I like Jessie. Oh, and you also like Bo?” I said, “Yes, I like Bo too.” She proceeded to describe a whole scene from one of the Toy Story movies (to be honest, I can’t remember which number) where Jessie says something like, “Hey, isn’t that mistletoe?” and then Bo kisses Woody. She described the scene to me about four times and seemed to be thoroughly entertained by it. Then she asked if I had seen Toy Story 4, and I answered that I had. She asked if I knew Forky: I did. She went on to describe Forky’s googly eyes, his funny shaped mouth, and the fact that he is actually a spork. Then she described the scene where he came to life.

This may seem like an uninteresting conversation to an outsider, but the interesting part to me was the bond it immediately created between me and this person I had never met. When I first saw her standing there, she was a perfect stranger, but when we were laughing about how Forky kept throwing himself in the trash, we were transformed into old friends reminiscing about that other friend who was always causing shenanigans.

Toy Story 4 is just a movie, but that day it became a shared story. My new friend and I felt like we had a history or a shared experience because we were both familiar with these characters and their adventures.

A story is a powerful thing.

Even more powerful is the one story that includes all of us. We are not just spectators who have seen a movie so many times that we feel like we know the main character personally, like the way I “know” Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World. Instead, I am referring to the story that we all take part in whether we know it or not. This is God’s story. It is because of the main character, Jesus, that we are all in the story–no one is excluded. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).

My favorite children’s Bible (which I have purchased for adults as well) is The Jesus Storybook Bible, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago. The introduction explains that the Bible is not primarily a book of rules or a book of heroes, but “most of all a Story.”

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name… (p. 17)

The stories that “whisper his name” continue as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Whether friends or strangers, we become like old friends with a shared story. And like the young woman I met, we tell the story over and over and love it more each time.

Image credits: Pioneer Press – Jean Pieri; Forky Enamel Pin by CoolectricCollections on Etsy.