Do you ever pass by a guy on the side of the road who is begging for money and think, “hmm, I bet when he was a teenager his life ambition wasn't to stand at a busy intersection with a plea for help scribbled on a torn piece of cardboard. I wonder how he got from point A to point B?” Do I think that every time I see something like that? No, but it crosses my mind more often than you'd think.
Everyone loves a good story. There's something engaging, fascinating, and magnetic about a well-told tale that people can relate to; a story with a hero, a villain, a rise, a fall, an arc, an emotion, and a redemption.
Why is that?
The concept of “story” is a fascinatingly powerful one for me. I'd say everyone is drawn to this idea in some way, but for a personality like mine, it's what turns the gears in my head and pumps the blood in my veins. I'm a people person. The casual acquaintance and I may only know the chapter titles of each other's story; my best friends know what page every sentence is on.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a history, a present, a future. We all have goals. We all have hopes and dreams and expectations. The intriguing part is how we get from point A to point B, what life-jarring events change and shape us in the process, what we look like on the other side, and which dreams actually come true. By the time we get to point B, we may be totally different people with totally different goals. The journey is our “story.”
I love hearing people's stories. I love to observe how someone went from one place to the next. Sometimes it's a whirlwind of uplifting and fortunate events. Other times it's a tragic mess. Every time it is a story worth sharing. Maybe this is why I love movies so much. They're one of many modern means of storytelling, but one that is easy to engage and usually only takes two hours of your time.
Story is powerful. Story is the easiest way to get to know someone. Story opens a door into someone's life, allowing others to peer into the personal world of someone else. By this exchange we learn why someone acts the way they do and says the things they say. We learn what outside influences shaped who they are and what personal choices they bear the weight and responsibility of.
Most importantly, we learn how to relate to each other. Story brings everyone to the same page of the same book.
Maybe story is so important because we are all part of the same one. Each personal vignette is a piece of one giant story – God's story. God's story is the history of all things, infinitely extending in past and future. Creation – Fall - Redemption – Restoration. Those are the chapters of God's story. God creates. Man corrupts. God rescues. God reconciles.
Story is important because each person is made in the image of the Great Storyteller. Each person is drawn to stories because we look like the Great Subject of history's grand narrative.
Maybe you don't like how you're story is going. Maybe you're waiting for the big plot twist. Maybe you feel like nothing in your life ever changes. Maybe you're waiting for one tiny detail of your script to finally piece together and make sense. What's funny is we rarely see those types of huge changes from a day to day perspective, but take a look back at where you were a few years ago, and I bet a lot of your story has changed. Story also changes depending on who's telling it. Someone with a different perspective will observe the same events in a completely unique way from how you would.
Perhaps the best option we have is to use our stories to help each other. This does mean we have to open ourselves up in a vulnerable way, but that's the point. We are all impacted by the stories we hear; so listen up and open up.
Use story to relate. Use story to inform. Use story to love.