you can live your life for gold;
Don’t you know that they won’t save you
when you get your story told.”
Rod Picott and Amanda Shires
It’s all about story
The truth is we love stories. That’s always been the case with humans. Our ancestors have sat around the campfire, in front of the fireplace, or at the kitchen table and told stories. Whether facts of their own lives, whether embellishments on the lives of heroes, or passing on mythology full of symbols, all cultures have reveled in story. Homer. Aesop’s Fables. The Brothers Grimm. Hans Christian Andersen. One Thousand and One Nights. The Bhagavid Gita. We still love stories, although we now tell them somewhat differently: books, movies, TV series, songs, documentaries, reality TV shows (hey, the quality of today’s story telling is another issue).
On a more intimate level we listen (eventually) to our parents and grandparents, our teachers and our mentors. I grew up listening to stories of depression era life on Beller Mountain, near Keota, Oklahoma (Dad, I now greatly appreciate it!). How I wish I had known my grandparents longer and had been able to hear more of their stories, and their version of life on Beller Mountain! We are all about the story – listening to one, living one, telling one.
It’s all about your story
So . . . this morning I am sitting in my men’s Bible Study class at church and hearing the current version of our story. Most everyone in the class is in his late fifties or early sixties. Every week the prayer list update includes praying for each other as our parents pass away or we spend time taking care of parents. We are all keenly aware that our parents are slowly, inevitably, and outwardly wasting away, yet are also inwardly being renewed day by day, fixing their eyes on what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:16-18). It seems not that long ago that we were praying for our ailing and dying grandparents. It won’t be that much longer till we are praying for each other as we move on.
We are living our story every day, and it is a story that moves in one direction. Which causes me, therefore, to ask often what my story will be and how it will be told. Sure, I’m sixty-one years old, but my story is not complete and won’t be till my dying breath. (I have always pitied those who think and act otherwise). Yes, most of it has been told. The foundations have been laid. Most of the characters have entered the stage and many have already left; however, there are still many more to come. The theme, the point, the direction, and the outcome of the plot has been shaped, formed, and even determined by my heritage, my family, my choices, and those around me. More importantly, my God has guided, informed, directed, corrected, healed, and even determined my steps and the steps of those before me. But, since I am by nature a reflective introvert (both a blessing and a curse, by the way), I know there is much more of the story to come – I want there to be much more of the story to come. I am not necessarily referring to number of years, although that would be nice, but to the influence I can have as a character in the story of so many others.
What about your story? What and who shaped it? What and who is shaping it now? Whose story are you helping to shape?
It’s all about the story
Of course, any good preacher type would have to end here. See, although it is all about story, both my story and your story, it is ultimately about the story. That is, all our stories – all stories, period – have to be told, heard, interpreted, and evaluated in light of the one overarching story, grounded in history. The story is that God created, humans rebelled and sinned against God, and God is on mission to redeem all of his creation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The stories of history, the story of every culture, the story of every person is lived out in light of that one story. In the grand scheme of things, the origin, purpose, and destiny of all creation is God’s story – he wrote it and gets to tell it. On the most personal level, my story and your story makes sense and has purpose only as we realize they are stories within God’s story. This is foundational. That we are part of His story is a given. That we have a part in His story of redemption depends on our relationship with him in Christ. And, if you do have a part in His story, the story is eternal. Therefore, as the song quoted above says in a simple way, when you get your story told it won’t be the silver, the gold, the titles, the stuff, the power, the fame, or anything else that will save you. It will be the “old, old story of Jesus and His love.”
When the obituary is written (I read them often; there are some good stories there) what will yours say? When the eulogy is given will your story’s influence be obvious? More importantly, will it be said that you were a part of His story, that your story was not really our own, but His?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.