Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Power of Story to Bridge Divisions

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Over the holidays, I’ve enjoyed watching the commercials for Ancestry. com. Ancestry is the company that tests your DNA and then sends back information on your family.

The commercials captured my wife and me every time. They had families coming together, the children or teens asking their parents or grandparents questions or bringing up family history they’d been told. A cozy Hallmark movie in thirty seconds.
The point of the commercials wasn’t that they were selling DNA information, but they were selling stories.

Stories. There’s something about them that connects us more than just facts. In the above commercials, they didn’t tell us how many kits they’ve done over the years, how quickly the process is, or how far back they go. In fact, they didn’t even mention what the client had received. We only saw the family coming together to hear the story.

Eugene Peterson, in Leap Over the Wall, illustrates the power stories can hold over one’s lifetime. He wrote how his Mom would regale them with stories from the Bible, bringing them to life. When the whole community had gathered when Samuel arrived to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king, he said he could smell the hotdogs and cotton candy. Later, when he was able to study the scripture for himself, he was disappointed to learn that only the first three sons are named in the Bible. There were no Ole, Gump, Klug, or Chugger as his Mom had had described.

Is it any surprise that he later wrote the Message? He wanted to make the text to be more conversational and inviting for a novice to read or those who had read the Bible but found it too familiar.

The Ancestry commercials also showed different generations and segments stopping and coming together, which is a too rare thing to happen today. In a recent Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, more than nine out of ten said it’s important for the US to try to reduce divisiveness.

It is becoming harder, not just to get people to listen, but to even be able to communicate with others. We are constantly bombarded with shouting on what we should do or believe that we are tuning it out and staying away from the noise more. It is almost impossible to tell what the facts are, they get twisted so much.

Which is why stories are so helpful. I’ve heard that we can argue facts and data, but not feelings and experiences. Telling a story helps you and your listener share a part of your life. Connecting a little.

And isn’t that what we need? Connections and not divisions. Not to always be right, but for us to come closer together.

Sounds like something Jesus would have approved of.

The Power of Story to Bridge Divisions - @TimSuddeth on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Healing opportunities abound, Tim. We're fast becoming a country/world of almost equally divided factions: the lunatic, moronic fools on one side and the righteous on the other. The problem is that most folks agree with that but not which side they're on. Nor do they seem to particularly care whether the division is healed. And because there are devout Christians on both sides, playing a role in the healing can seem daunting - but as writers, we must press on and use our craft to make a difference. Great post. Bless you, sir, for all you continue to do.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

  2. Good comment, Jay. Thanks for being a faithful follower. And writer.

  3. Tim, As someone who has recently gotten hooked on Ancestry, I loved your article. As a writer I feel a responsibility to use all tools at my disposal, to tell stories. Learning about my heritage and then using the stories to point to Jesus is my goal. Just not sure what that will look like yet. I always enjoy your words here. ---Judy

    1. That sounds wonderful. I wish you the best and hope to hear what God has in mind.

  4. Tim, the story from Peterson made me laugh. And I marveled that you watch commercials and get writing ideas! I’d better quit playing word games on my ipad during TV time. And lastly, I got a thrill when I read your byline and thought, “I know that famous writer!” I was in the novelist group with you in Oct.

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  6. You make me laugh. Ideas are everywhere, harnessing them is the hard part.