I was driving around today and had the radio tuned to NPR. There was a story about people living with Alzheimer”s. Apparently there’s is a new form of therapy being used where a patient is shown a picture. It could be anything; a woman in a pretty dress, a baker making bread, a man on a motorcycle…etc. Next, the patient is asked to tell the story of the person in the picture. There is no right or wrong answer, only whatever the storyteller decides is happening.
Without fail, the patients begin to create an elaborate world or scenario for the people in the picture. Maybe the woman in the dress is going out for a big date. Maybe she met the man at a restaurant where they had dinner. Maybe she is nervous about the second date because she really likes the man, and so on.
Once the patient gets into the story, their communication skills are infinitely higher than they are at any other point in the day. While telling the story they are able to relate to their loved ones on a level that had previously been impossible. More importantly, after they have told the story, they are more lucid and able to communicate about other things.
The study is amazing. It shows that story is a part of us. It is inside every human. It is what drives us, what captures our imaginations, what awakens us in the morning. Story is our language, its how we communicate. When our memory is gone and our reality has become distorted and confused, STORY is what brings the meaning back into our lives.
The STORY on NPR, although very interesting, didn’t surprise me. I don’t find it hard to believe that STORY will awaken any heart. Yet when I look at much of the Christian world, I feel like we have replaced the STORY of Jesus with the medicine of our beliefs. We are simply giving the message points of Christianity.
When I look at the STORY of Jesus and the STORY of Christianity, I am compelled to dive in and love and give my life fully over to God. Yet when I look only at the MESSAGE of Christianity I am compelled to feel slightly sick in the pit of my stomach. Message without STORY is irrelevant.
What amazes me is that I find it impossible to look at the MESSAGE of Jesus without embracing the STORY of Jesus. His STORY was love and it was lived. His STORY was acceptance. His STORY was his message. To try and break down the STORY of Jesus into a simple message is like trying to poor the ocean into a cup. We can live the STORY and we can tell the STORY and we can allow those around us to experience and be changed by our STORY, but to preach the message is to render the STORY irrelevant.
If STORY can reach those living with Alzheimer”s who have lost much of their grasp on reality. If it can revive the heart when the mind has lost its memory, STORY can transform anyone.
Check out the NPR STORY below.