What is it about a good story that draws you in? Isn’t it the unfolding plot, the developing characters, a sense of movement and intrigue and the yet unknown? Do you live into the story that is your life? Do you view your life as story? And what kind of story is your life telling?
Enter last Thursday’s “To Be Told” conference taught by Dan Allender. Ironically, I hardly have words for how powerful it was. This conference, in this moment of my story, illuminated my own story and reminded me of the power of the story of a life. Of my life. Of your life. We are all living a story. But do you know your story? And what story is your life telling about God? And how are you telling your story and being an engaged presence to listen to the stories of others? These opening questions were the invitation to a conference I hope to be processing for the rest of my life. For that’s the thing with the stories that are our lives – they never end. There is no resolution this side of eternity, simply respites and hints of the Grand Resolution to come, and chapters that begin and end.
Story reveals the heart of God. The best stories always do. That’s what I love about the Harry Potter books, for example. There’s the undeniable themes of light versus darkness, and times when darkness seems to have won. But then it doesn’t. Not ultimately, though darkness in the personification of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named certainly takes many casualties down with him along the way.
Allender spoke into this connection between story and God’s revelation as he said:
We don’t know the heart of God outside of story, but we don’t know our story outside of God’s character.
What this says to me as a writer, counselor, wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend is that (1) I want to be a good listener to the stories of others. To look for and point out and worship alongside the revelation of God in the stories of my traveling companions.
(2) I want to tell my story well. Which might mean, to tell my story. I hide from my story not because it’s “BIG” and “DARK” and “SCARY” but because it seems quite ordinary to me. Of course it does – it’s all I’ve ever known. I also often feel like compared to the stories of many clients I walk with and friends I journey beside, it does not reveal God as dramatically as theirs do. But that’s simply not true. There’s no comparison in this art of story-telling. The goal is story-telling. To tell your story. To know your story and tell it, and in telling your story, to know it better. And because we live in a world inhabited by the God of every story, knowing my story better will mean that I know the God of my story better. Similar to the way that listening to your story will also mean I know a different aspect of God in a deeper way, a part of God that he wrote specifically into your story and none other.