Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Rest of the Story

I kind of had a love/hate relationship with Paul Harvey . . . though he never even knew we were in a relationship.  Like most good Midwesterners, I was a Paul Harvey fan and would love to eat my lunch listening to him share his own spin on his popular radio news show when he was alive.  Then he got commercial . . . he began letting his political views into his news . . . and, in my opinion, the show began to slip.  But that was not the show that made me a fan of his . . . it was his short radio broadcast known as Now, the Rest of the Story.  This was one of those shows that challenged the listener to determine whether he or she really knew the background story or the actual history to information that the majority of the population understood as the gospel truth.  On this show he would tease the listeners with a tidbit of a story that would grab one's interest, then he would break for a commercial before coming back to give the listeners with the facts . . . with the truth . . . or, what he called, the rest of the story.  Amazingly, he usually blew the preconceived ideas and understandings of what the listeners thought was the truth right out of the water.  Then, smugly, he would remark, “Now, you know the rest of the story . . . good day!”

Over the years, through experience, I have come to appreciate and value the rest of the story.  My primary reason for having come to this appreciation is the fact that most of us do not know the whole story when it comes to a lot of things in life we take for granted . . . people, places, things, and history.    Take history, for example.  There is a lot about our history as a nation that we have all wrong . . . a lot about it that we do not really understand . . . a lot of it we do not even know, but we think we do.  A lot of it we have never been taught . . . at least not correctly in our schools.  One of the reason is that most--if not all--history is written from the winner's perspective . . . rarely--if at all--do we ever hear the loser's point-of-view.

This registered with me about thirty years ago when I read a book (Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz) that my parents gave me about a Civil War reenactor who toured all the war's battle sites.  What I learned in reading that book was that all the battle sites actually had two names . . . one was the name given by the Union forces, the other was the name given by the Confederate forces.  So, whose names do you think are attached to all the signage at these national sites?  That is right, the Union's . . . after all, they won the war.  But that does not make the South happy . . . in a lot of their minds the war isn’t over . . . their side of the story isn’t the primary or even a part of the history that is taught in schools.  To get a better understanding one needs to know all sides of the story to get the whole story.

Though winners often write the history, that is not always the case.  Right here in our area of Montana . . . down the road south of us . . . is a prime example of how the “rest of the story” is not always shared, nor is the actual history given correctly.  Down the road is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument . . . known for years, and still referred to by many, as "Custer's Last Stand".  Now my understanding is that Custer got his butt kicked—literally, and did not live to tell the story.  But you would have never known that in the way that it was portrayed in history books.  It was a “fluke win” for the Indians . . . they just got lucky, and Custer was an egotistical fool who made a few mistakes.  This was not a battle that the cavalry won . . . not even close.  But from the stories that circulated for decades and generations, one would have thought otherwise.  It took years and years of fussing and fighting for the true story to come out . . . for the rest of the story, and still today it isn't quite all there.  When going to the actual battle site one still wonders if the Indians won—even today.  So, history is not always written by the winners . . . sometimes it is written by those who are in power.

But the point is, the "rest of the story" is important in understanding . . . understanding the history . . . understanding the people . . . understanding places . . . cultures . . . races . . .

I think that hearing the “rest of the story” is going to be vital in our survival as a nation and as a society . . . as a community.  I think that the “rest of the story” is the foundation of something that Jesus taught, and something that I have been called to practice as a follower of his . . . hospitality.  Unfortunately hospitality is not what most of us so-called Christians believe it is.  Hospitality is not putting out coffee and cookies after the worship service.  Hospitality is not having a cookout or potluck dinner.  Hospitality is not walking up to the stranger in the worship service, shaking hands, and introducing yourself before going back to our seat.  Hospitality is not putting money in the plate for a mission project.  It is not collecting food for the local food pantry.  It is not lifting someone else up in prayer in their time of need.  Hospitality is not just opening one's house to another. 

Hospitality is learning the "rest of the story" . . . it is taking the time to listen to another and getting to know them for who they really are . . . knowing them for who God created them to be . . . not preconceived ideas and notions about them, but who they really are.  And, hospitality is confronting our prejudices and preconceived ideas about people and correcting them to reflect the reality and truth . . . of reflecting the "rest of the story".  As the followers of Jesus this is what he asked us to do when he challenged us to be a people of hospitality.

We all know that there are always at least two sides to every story, but usually we only hear one side of the story.  We do this with the so-called news we read and hear every day.  If we only watch one news network, we only get one perspective on the news whether it be a mainline network like ABC, CBS, or NBC (all considered to be liberal) or a cable news network like Fox News  (considered to be conservative) we only get one side and one view of the news.  There are a whole bunch of other networks out there that report the news—often much better than these guys.  When this is our mode of operation and the basis of our understanding, we don't get the whole story . . . we don't get the “rest of the story”.  We are not being hospitable.  Any time we get all of our understanding of anything from only one source, we are cheating ourselves and others from truly understanding the truth and reality of any given person, place, thing, or history.  We are not listening to the "rest of the story".  We are not following Jesus very well . . . we are not practicing hospitality.

Jesus asked that we practice hospitality . . . to welcome the stranger . . . not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually . . . to invite them to sit at the table and become a part of the family.  This can only take place when we are willing to listen, to really listen . . . to the "rest of the story".  It can only happen when we are willing to hear the story of others from their understanding, and to grapple with the ways that it challenges our understanding.  It comes from honoring the stories of others and their experience as valid and life-giving experiences equal to our own.  It is a willingness to admit differences, but still be accepting and supportive.  It is being willing to discern and reconcile that which separates so that we can be whole and holy.  If we cannot embrace and practice this sort of "hospitality" then we will never get it . . . we will never have a table where all God's children are gathered . . . where all are welcome . . . where the family—God’s family—is restored.

So, where do we begin?  We begin where we are.  We begin with our daily lives.  We begin practicing hospitality where we are.  There is only one story . . . God’s story.  It would sure be nice if we could bring all the chapters of the story together.  We need to listen to the “rest of the story”.  As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story . . . good day!”

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