By that word "story," what Allender is talking about is the narrative or chief themes of our lives crystallized into one slice or piece of that narrative. I am writing a story about a time in high school when I felt publicly humiliated and my father did not come to my rescue. That story reveals a recurring theme of shame, perfectionism, and failure that has run through my life.
Here are four things about story that I'm learning:
- God has written my story. Even though there's evil in it, my story has been authored by a sovereign, loving, often mysterious God. The Bible teaches this. As Job reminded his wife, the Lord both gives and takes away. I can trust that things haven't happened randomly and purposelessly. I may not know the purpose behind things that happen (and probably don't). I may not like the purpose. But the Author of my story knows best.
- God has written my story to reveal his goodness. My story contains themes of death, resurrection, and ascension. The more I understand and the better I explore those themes, the more I get to know Jesus and his work in my life.
- My story is not over. I continue to partner with God in the writing of my story everyday. This is sort of like the popular saying, "Be patient with me; God's not finished with me yet." The mysterious thing about life with God is that even though he's already written my story, my choices matter. It's the old antinomy: God is sovereign, yet we are responsible. In partnership with God, I can shape my future.
- My story is inconceivably beautiful. To use C. S. Lewis's words, it bears a "weight of glory." However, I don't believe this about my story ... just as you don't believe it about yours. Dan Allender put it like this: "You can't know the beauty of your story apart from others reading it." I cannot interpret my story alone. I need others to hear my story, see how it reveals God's goodness, and help me shape my story in the future. Lewis writes,
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you see it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare...There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal."This is why we need to share our stories with each other - to help us see the glory of our own story, and to point each other to the great Author of our stories.