The Power of the Parable

by Ryan Hendrick

Ryan Hendrick’s guest post introduces the Bible’s use of parable and its impact. He follows this discussion with his original example.

 

A parable intrigues me because its brevity often conceals its power until it blindsides its audience. In this sense, parable is as unexpected as the boy who slays a giant with a stone and the little girl who smiles up at you with all the sweetness in the world before taking your wallet. How does a small and seemingly innocuous story reach its end and open the heart to truth for some while further exposing the blindness of others?

We see this technique used par excellence in the Old Testament when Nathan chose parable to convict David of his wickedness with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). Merely telling David his sin would have caused him to raise the drawbridge, fill the moat, and bolster his walls. But story was the Trojan horse that could infiltrate David’s sinful defenses to cast light on his darkness and bring him back to the Lord. Veggie Tales adapted this story with rubber duckies thousands of years later, and the impact is still effective.

Anyone who has read the New Testament knows Jesus’ love for parables. He used them for whatever purpose he required in the moment: to encourage, equip, condemn, or inform. Parables were one of Christ’s favorite vehicles for conveying truth, demonstrating to rich and poor, healthy and sick, old and young, how potent a good story can be when it’s stuck in our heads.

Why Parables?

I enjoy writing in parable for several reasons.

First, Christ loved parables, so growing in this technique gives me a better understanding of my Savior, why he loved it, and how the Bible uses parables to communicate truth.

Second, my mind is wired for it. It’s how I make sense of the world, my joy and my pain. For years, I used to think of isolated scenes and wonder if I could place them in a movie or a novel someday. Now, I realize the scenes don’t need extended narrative if their power is in their conciseness. 

Third, parables are an intellectual sandbox for me. I can play with the use of dialogue in one, staccato sentence structure in another, heady prose in the next, and discover the image to use for that neat title that popped into my head.

Fourth, I don’t see many others writing them. Pastors use them in sermons on occasion (illustrations in “modern speak”), but the genre mostly remains untapped. The ones that inspired me were Kierkegaard’s “The King and the Maiden” and Dostoevsky’s chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov.

Finally, parables seem more relevant in the age of social media, where attention spans are decreasing and every story is the length of a parable. My hope is that people will have a greater chance of hearing and internalizing truth if the story is short enough and gripping enough to finish before they change the channel.

Letting Go of Mr. Happiness

“It’s time to let Mr. Happiness go, my love.”

The child’s trembling hands stroked the stuffed rabbit’s head. Her fingers traced well-worn contours, down one ear, then up the other. Old, discolored and ragged, the rabbit sagged in the refuge of her arms, comfortable and familiar.

“But why, Daddy?”

“Because I have something better for you.”

“I want to keep Mr. Happiness.”

“I know, my love. But if you don’t let go of Mr. Happiness I can’t give you the next thing.”

“Can I have it now?”

“Not yet, my love.”

“Why not?”

“Because your hands aren’t big enough to hold it yet.”

“But why can’t I keep Mr. Happiness?”

“Because your hands are too big to hold onto him any longer.”

To obey her father or to keep Mr. Happiness? She knew she couldn’t do both. Wells of sadness formed as the war for her heart battled in her eyes. She gazed lovingly at her old companion.

“Do you trust me, my love?”

Slowly she extended her arms, her eyes fixed on Mr. Happiness. Her father reached, and for a moment it seemed she would seize the rabbit back to her chest and run. But her brave arms held their resolve. As he gently pulled Mr. Happiness from her hands, she let go and wept. And her father wept with her.

Copyright Ryan Hendrick March 8, 2019

Ryan is the 5thand 6thGrade Pastor at Brookwood Church. He’s written curriculum, dramas, workbooks and, of course, sermons in his time there. Recently he’s started writing parables in his free time. When he isn’t writing, he’s laughing, drinking coffee or running the occasional Spartan Race.

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One thought on “The Power of the Parable

  1. I’m not clear on the meaning of the Pastor’s parable, but I’ve always loved this teaching tool. Even as a little girl in Sunday School, I loved reading the Old and New Testament parables–the ones Jesus told, especially. “Consider [the lilies of the field, for example]…” Such an engaging storyteller, at once relatable and provocative!