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The Power of the Parable

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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Let the Little Children Come

We’re naturally drawn to the power of a good story. It starts at a young age, doesn’t it?

Jack and Jill and other nursery rhymes.

Aesop’s Fables and fairy tales.

Frights around a campfire and happily-ever-after bedtime stories.

Jesus understood the power of a story. He spoke truth, then illustrated it with parables—earthly stories with heavenly meanings. He drew people to the Father through word pictures His listeners could recognize and relate to.

He was happiest when people understood His message (think of the Roman centurion in Matthew 8:10 who exhibited more faith than any Israelite Jesus met). He was disappointed when they didn’t get it (John 14:9, NIV: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?”).

We catch glimpses of both His joy and disappointment when we offer our stories too. Whether in a picture book or a chapter book, we tell a story using words our readers can relate to. We do it because the motive for our writing is not just to entertain, it’s to accomplish an eternal purpose.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

Children - 150ef2c32012fDon’t underestimate your audience. And don’t allow others—including other writers—to disparage your written contributions as being any less valuable than those in other genres. Children are important to Jesus, so they must be important to us.

Children are also important to us for another reason:

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:2–5, NIV).

Children show us how to go to the Father. We need them to demonstrate what it means to have childlike faith. To trust without wavering. To love as we have been loved.

Write so that the children may come. As you do, come as a child as well.

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Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.

In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s Word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at AvaWrites.com.