Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Story

I am fascinated by the idea of story.

As a kid, I couldn't get enough stories...reading them, making them up in my head, acting them out with friends, writing them out on that really thin paper with the pre-printed lines that teach you how high to make your letters with a space up at the top of your page to draw your pictures illustrations.

In college, my fascination with story led me to study English literature and Sociology...which is kind of the study of people's stories. (That is not the proper definition, but it is what I loved about sociology). I loved to look at people and their social groups and their cultures and understand the whys and hows of their stories. I read my sociology texts just like my childhood storybook anthologies, absorbed in people's stories.

I think my fascination with story is part of why I love NPR so much. I especially love shows like This American Life and The Moth, but I even love the way they do news...with so much story in the stories. J hates listening to NPR and says he feels like it always sounds they are doing a radio version of going through Grandma's attic--and that it isn't practical or useful or real news. I argue back that it is real news a lot of times, and that some shows aren't supposed to be news shows in the first place, and that if they did an investigative piece into some one's grandma's attic, I would probably be completely fascinated anyway. Because I want to hear Grandma's stories.

Back in the late 90s, I was part of a church that was mostly people in their 20s. We were young and trying to figure out how to navigate this thing called adult life and I remember our leadership was all into this book called The Sacred Romance by John Eldridge. As best as I can remember, the essence of the book was that all of life and history was part of God's Story (we talked about the big S story) of love, pursuit, and redemption. They taught us that our stories (little s stories) were part of the big S story and part of how we did our community was that we took turns telling and listening to each other's stories...our pasts, our failures, our fears, our moments of encounter with God, our moments of redemption. Those times of listening and sharing were truly sacred for me and helped me to understand that everyone has a story of how they got to where they are.

Lately, I have been coming across several quotes and writings about story. There's a theme that I have been noticing that says, in order to really understand your story, you're going to have to learn to embrace the parts of your story that you wish were not parts of your story. In other words, we all have our battle wounds, and often, that's where some of our best stories come from.

I struggle with this. Some parts of my story are really ugly. Some are unfortunate, some are sad, but some are downright gross. I spend a lot of my emotional energy trying to cut myself off from a lot of my story. I don't want my past to have anything to do with my present  But, lately, I feel like God is asking me to learn to embrace my story--all of my story.

Because the truth is, God isn't afraid of telling a story that involves selfishness, fear, or destruction. A few glances through scripture will introduce you to characters like Jacob, Paul, and the unnamed woman at the well. God wasn't finished with these people's stories when He confronts them in the scripture narrative. He was about to take their pasts and rewrite their futures.

I want to resist the leading to embrace the stories of my past. I want to run and hide. I don't want the truth of the past to be true. Yet I'm coming to see that that God only wants to lead me into the darkness of my story so He can bring me through to the light of His truth. On the other side of my story lies freedom and renewal.

This will require courage. But I'm growing more and more convinced that it will be worth it. I'm lucky to have a few close friends who are not scared off when I share my stories of trauma and ugly and brokenness. Their willingness to listen, to ask questions, to lean in and not run away gives me courage.

So stay tuned. Maybe part of telling a good story will require telling some not-so-good stories, too.

And what about you? Do you have stories that you wish were not part of your story? Have you embraced the ability to see that sometimes those places are the places from which the best stories emerge? Do you have a safe place to tell your whole story--the good and the hard? I pray you do.


  1. Gratitude for the whole you. And love and compassion and giggles too. Oh, and tears and hissy fits and drama.

    The WHOLE you.
    The WHOLE me.
    The WHOLE of humanity. (Hey, it rhymes!)

  2. Oh girl, you know it was just the other day that I told you I was "tired of this being my story." I love this post, and can't wait to hear yours, nitty gritty and all.