The other day a stranger greeted me with the ice-breaker question, “What is your story?” Although it may sound like small talk, his question is one of the most important and revealing things you can ask somebody.
Most of us go through life with a negative view of our own story.
We remember our mistakes; we’re convinced we’ve screwed up. We think we come out of dysfunctional histories – our families, our hometowns, our money or lack of money. We think we have made, and continue to make, bad decisions. We know what Eric Clapton means when he sings, “I must be strong and carry on, ‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.”
The circumstances change from chapter to chapter, but the same nagging problem remains: there’s something about our own story we don’t like.
When you meet somebody and you ask them, “What’s your story?”, you’re not just throwing out a colloquial, how-ha-doing greeting. You are asking that person perhaps the most important question you can ask, and their answer says a lot about how he or she understands their own life. Your answer to the question says a lot about how you see your own life.
We see our story, and our identity, as the sum total of our life experiences.
Many of us define ourselves by our life experiences; we think who we are comes from what we’ve done. We adopt the unexamined idea that our identity is in our history. But maybe our problem isn’t the plot twists and turns of our life, or the characters and scenes we’re stuck in. Maybe the problem is that we don’t understand, or that we have forgotten, our real story.
What if our story is more than just our seemingly random set of life choices?
What if we’re not actually alone, making our own life’s scenes up as we go like a crazed screenwriter? What if there’s a bigger story unfolding all around us, and we’re a small but crucial part?
See, I believe that following Jesus is about learning that neither the idea that we are the director of our life purpose, nor that our lives are devoid of meaning, is true. Instead, we are created by a divine God, made in God’s image, and that we have a story, and that in spite of everything that has happened, our story is a good story. And that in Christ Jesus, we have the opportunity to rediscover the story for which we are made. We’re not alone, writing our own future as we see fit, but we actually have a divine director who wants to show us what happens next.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Art and inspiration for this post come from The Story, a sermon series at my church, Peachtree. Learn more here.