The Power of Story

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, wife, mother,
and grace-clinger—not necessarily in that order. She writes Women’s Fiction
that weaves the past and present with everlasting hope. Heidi is the winner of
ACFW’s 2014 Genesis Contest, Historical Category. She lives in Massachusetts
with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.
The Power of Story
Story is powerful.
I’m not the only one claiming this fact. Now,
science is backing up the assertion that story has the ability to change the
way we think, to change the way we even act.
At a writer’s retreat a couple years back, I
listened to an inspiring presentation by author Tessa Afshar, in which she
spoke of the incredible power of story. As I tried to pull together this blog
post, I berated myself for not taking notes. Luckily for me, a search online
brought up a 2012 New York Times article by Annie Murphy Paul, in which she
explores Your Brain On Fiction.
Your Brain On Fiction:
“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a
distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real
life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated,” Paul writes.
When we read of metaphors, textures, and scents
imparted to us in rich words, the same places of our brain that are stimulated
when actually experiencing these things are roused when we read them. 
A powerful story can even go beyond this. The same
way the brain responds to smells and textures as if we were truly experiencing
them, so the brain also responds to a character’s heartaches, happiness, and
frustrations as if they are our own. We can learn from make-believe characters.
We can become more empathetic to those around us. We can hone our social skills
simply by picking up a book.
Wow. Great news for those of us who already love a
good story.
As I read this scientific evidence, I thought of
the Master Storyteller. Many times, Jesus taught with a story. The Parable of
the Lost Sheep certainly has a deeper impact on His listeners than if Jesus
simply said, “God loves the lost with a passion you can’t imagine.”
Instead, we can see ourselves in that story—alone
and afraid, and yes, as a sheep! It doesn’t matter. God made His point in this
story and many others, as well as in His entire Word—one huge, beautiful story
of His love for us.
So I don’t know about you, but next time I’m
wrapped up in a good novel I won’t feel quite so guilty about the laundry not
getting done. After all, I’m not just reading. I’m improving my social skills.
I’m relishing a creation. I’m becoming a more empathetic person.          
And who can argue with the power behind that?