There’s great power in being able to tell a great story. For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to professional storyteller Donald Davis with some of my ministry friends. You should watch him below. He’s great. And he’s helped me think about the nature of story, specifically the idea that story is made up of more than objective narrative; it’s more than just the facts.
Story, Davis argues, is much more than simply telling what happened. Story is interpretive; story is the way we choose to frame what happened. So story becomes the way we choose to remember what happened. And if past is prologue, then story becomes the introduction to our futures.
The greatest story any of us will ever tell is our own, and there’s great power in how we choose to tell our stories. Our stories, at their most basic, are the way we choose to let people know who we are, so each of our stories ends with an often unspoken “…and that’s how I got to be who I am today.” The challenge, though, is that each of our stories has plenty of source material to create a first class tragedy, a hope-filled comedy, or an inspiring, wonder-filled fairy tale.
So the question is, “What kind of stories do we choose to tell about ourselves?” How are we choosing to frame the narratives of our pasts? Do we tell our life stories so that we get to happy endings? Are we telling a tragic story of woe? Or are we whimsical enough to tell a story that’s so full of fantastical details and child-like wonder that it must be too good to be true?
Each of our lives provides material to honestly tell all three. The choice of which story we tell is entirely ours, and that choice has tremendous power to shape who we will be tomorrow.
And here’s the thing: I am tremendously invested in how you choose to tell your story. In part, I am invested because I care about you. But I have a selfish motive as well. I care about how you choose to tell your story because none of our stories is entirely our own. We are connected, you and I.
The details of your story might be your own, but the narrative arc is ours. In the largest sense there is no your story and my story. At least I don’t think so. I believe very firmly that we are all part of God’s story. Which makes this week a fantastic time to talk about story because God’s story (and ours) will unfold before our very eyes next week.
The story of Holy Week is one of the greatest stories ever told. It is a story of great celebration, of epic betrayal, of inexpressible sorrow and unspeakable joy, of brazen power struggles filled with great suspense and unexpected twists—and a surprise ending that NO ONE expected.
And it is OUR story. The story of the Christian faith is a story in which each of us are invited to play our parts. That, first, makes us characters in God’s story. But more importantly it makes God the author and director of our stories. So while we might be people who can choose how to interpret the narrative of our pasts, God has the power to shape the way our stories end—and it’s fantastic.
Holy Week is a story from our past that tells the story of our future. And next week our stories turn a corner. My story, your story, every story hinges on the events of next week. As Frederick Buechner describes it, next week the tragedy of our lives meets the comedy—the good news—of the gospel, and they intermingle to form a fairy tale that’s too good NOT to be true!
So sometime on Easter Sunday afternoon, when you’re home from church and Easter dinner is fading into memory, do me a favor. Make God’s story your story by remembering the message from church that morning, smiling, and whispering to yourself, “…and that’s how I got to be who I am today.”
See you Sunday.