Once Upon a Time. Just the mere mention of this phrase and you know what’s coming – a story. This post is about why story is so important. My story, your story, everyone has a story. It is the story that makes us feel a connection to one another. What made my last post resonate with so many people is because of the story. It was personal. It was no longer just a topic or a stranger but full of life and meaning. The story is important because it is about you and me – the wins, the losses, the triumphs, the tragedies. Story is why I relate to you and you to me. It brings us together and reminds us that we are intricately different and wonderfully alike all at the same time.
Yesterday at my church, the congregation was asked to fill out an index card with the names of three people that they wanted to see have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (this is a very simplified explanation). The names were written down twice. The person writing kept a card so they could pray. A card was turned in so that the staff could also pray. As I began reading through the names, I was reminded not to pray from a distance. This is what I mean by that. It is so easy to look at things from a detached point of view. I may have feelings or opinions about any number of things but because it does not affect me, I am detached. I can pass judgement or make my own conclusions without knowing, you guessed it, “the story”. What I was reminded of is this – each person named on that card has a story. Each person is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, friend or maybe even an enemy. Regardless, each person has a story about why they haven’t been able to find a personal relationship with Jesus yet. What each person listed on those cards needs is to be able to relate to the story. Each person needs a connecting point to draw them in and to make it personal for them. I will not pray for just another name that I don’t know but with the belief that this person will soon be part of the community of Christ.
One of the first and last things I was asked to do when I went to Seminary was to write my story. Why? Writing my story allowed me to see where I had come from, who I was and where I was going. It made me stop and take notice of God’s big picture while also being aware of His involvement in the most intimate details of my life. Instead of responding to the personality quirks of others with an “ugghh”, it became easier to respond with an “oh” because I had this new understanding of why. Guess what? It also became easier to respond to myself with an “oh”. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic. I’m sure a lot of you are the same. Sometimes, learning to give yourself a little grace is the hardest lesson of all.
Here’s the truth, attachment to the story allows us to judge less and offer grace all the more. Instead of being quick to offer judgement about why people do certain things, I try to make a practice of taking a step back. I try to insert myself into their story. I don’t do this to over-think or over-process things, but as a way to legitimately answer what it means to truly love my neighbor as myself. If you have ever been judged (rightly or wrongly), and I think it is safe to assume that you have, you should know the sting of what it feels like. You know, that aching part inside of you that screams, “if they only knew the whole story.” Here is another truth I’ve learned. I don’t always have to know the details of the story, I just need an awareness that it is there. I think Bonhoeffer was right when he said that we judge because it makes us feel less guilty about the darkness of own hearts. Looking inside is always the most difficult part.
This is one of the reasons I love the Bible too. I love how God values the story. He could have just left a rule book full of things to do and not to do. Instead, He chose to gift us with stories full of wins, losses, triumphs, tragedies. He offers a place to relate. He brings us to His Word and reminds us that we are intricately different and wonderfully alike all at the same time. He allows us to see the change in a human heart when it seems an impossibility. And in the same respect, He gives the stories of tragedy and of hearts refusing to change as well.
Easter is approaching quickly. Like it or not, as Christian, this is Our Day. No one can take it from us. It is the day that we celebrate what makes Christ different from every other person and when we rejoice that salvation is ours to claim because of a cross, a death and a resurrection like no other. As you prepare your heart, I challenge you not to be detached. Don’t see the people around you as stranger, random co-worker, homeless person, troubled teenager. Try to see each person as someone personal with a story just like you. Reflect on your own story and how you got to the place you now stand. It is my own personal challenge as well. I think I miss opportunities to really show what it means to be a Christ follower, a disciple, because I allow myself to be detached from the story. Do you?
What if we all tried to see others as neighbor? How would the world be different? How many more would truly know this Christ?
John 10:6 – Jesus told this simple story…
Acts 10:37 – You know the story…
Acts 16:32 – They went on in detail to spell out the story of the Master
Romans 4:1-3 – …but the story we’re given is a God-story…
I Cor. 14:26-33 – …tell a story…
Gal. 1:13 – I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of my earlier life…
Heb 7:15 – But the Melchizedek story provides a perfect ananology
Heb. 12:1-3 – …When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item…
Let me see others as part of Your great story
Let the story bring me closer to you
When I lack faith, remind me of the story
Let Your story continue to spread
Until Your return.