I Love a Good Story

Through her grandmother's stories, she learned who she was and who she would become. by Lt. Colonel Lisa Smith

Since I was a small child, my family would take road trips down to Portland, Oregon, to visit my grandmother who was, among many things, the consummate storyteller.

Often, we’d arrive at Grandma’s house late at night, and after greetings and a few sweet treats, my sister and I would scamper underneath the covers of the hide-a-bed in the living room while Grandma turned out the lights. Oh, the stories we enjoyed as we snuggled with Grandma in the darkness!  

Wonderful scenes would fill my imagination as she spoke. I loved the story of the poor child offering a small coin as a gift to the baby Jesus at the church manger scene, an act of sacrificial love that inexplicably made long-silent church bells chime. Then there was the one about a hand-made toy boat swept away by the wind into the middle of a lake as the young boy who had built it played. Devastated, he searched and searched and finally found the boat at a pawn shop, from which he happily purchased it back much later. “That is much like what Jesus did for us,” Grandma explained.  

Perhaps my favorite stories were the ones she told about my grandfather who just a few years earlier had gone to be with the Lord. She would laugh as she recounted his mischievous antics during his young days as a merchant marine, and how he won her heart with a bouquet of daffodils. We especially loved hearing the story of the night Grandpa gave his heart to Jesus.

These remain some of my earliest, most cherished childhood memories. Grandma’s stories, I understand now, communicated clearly to me the priorities and values of the family to which I belong. From them, I understood who I truly was and who I would aspire to become.

I know I’m not alone in my love of stories. All of us are drawn to a well-told story. Perhaps that is why Jesus so often spoke in parables—stories which so vividly described the unique priorities and values of the Kingdom He came to Earth to proclaim. We understand from Jesus’ stories that this Kingdom is of more value than any other thing we might own or pursue. The wise seek first this Kingdom to their great benefit, and fools ignore it to their great loss.

From Jesus’ parables, we also understand that this Kingdom is a spiritual family where extravagant and sacrificial love reigns: the ignored are given attention, the lost are valued and sought out, the rebellious are forgiven, and the excluded are included. In what some Bible scholars describe as “the greatest short story ever told,” we see Jesus revealing our Creator God as a loving Father who runs to welcome not only the rebellious runaway son (the “rule-breaker”) but also the other son (the self-righteous “rule-keeper”). The Father invites both into loving fellowship with Him—revealing a Kingdom where restored relationships, not rigid rules, are primary. 

Today, Jesus continues to tell stories of His Kingdom, not only through the pages of the Bible, but through the lives of its citizens who heed and obey His Spirit, living out Kingdom values each day.

Jesus certainly told His Kingdom story through my grandmother’s life. All the stories she shared, if one listened very carefully, reflected the Kingdom of God. In telling them, she was really inviting her grandchildren, and whoever else might be listening, to be a part of this Kingdom and to know the wonderful King and Savior whom she loved more than any other treasure in life. 

Lt. Colonel Lisa Smith, program secretary for the Western Territory, lives in Torrance, CA, with her husband Kyle, a New Zealand Salvationist she met while doing relief work in post-war Rwanda in 1994. Their sons Landon and Brennan are both studying for their bachelor’s degree in New Zealand.