It has been said that the shortest story ever written was six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” This “story” has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but there is doubt about that (check out the full story here). The point of this story isn’t its author. The point is that those six words create in us various kinds of stories. Maybe the story you thought of, created, or felt was tragic and filled with the grief of loss. But, your story could have been one of joy, as the parents were gifted with too many shoes.
Everything is driven by a story… everything! Even our Bible. Our Bible is true. It is based in true historical reality. It conveys spiritual truth that guides how we live. But it also a story. Don’t hear “story” as a fable. Hear the word “story” as God’s story that helps us find out who we are, who God is and what’s important.
The short six-word story I started with isn’t a story told for the author or storyteller’s sake. It is told for our sake. A narrative isn’t primarily about information, it is about the values or what matters that are a part of the story. Stories are ultimately about us and they tap into not only our thoughts but more important, our feelings.
This is perhaps the greatest short story in fourteen words – “For God so love the world, he gave his one and only son…” (John 3:16). It is a story of rare sacrifice. It is a story of outrageous giving. It’s the best love story ever. It is a narrative of hope.
If everything is driven by story, then we have to look at our story. Are we letting others or situations write our story (think victim)? Or are we purposefully writing our story (think intentional)? What are the values that our story tells? Remember that a story is not for the storyteller, but for the reader and audience. What does your story do to and for other people? What values do others “read” or “hear” in your story? What impact is your story having on God and others?
This past weekend, Pastor Joe Stull taught in our adult services and opened our new teaching series, “Contrast.” I hope you didn’t miss it. As Joe shared the story of his struggle with PTSD, he invited us to see what was driving him. For a while, the story was about denial, hiding his wounds, and how it was destroying and defining him. But, that was not the end of his story. He is now writing a story that allows God into the deepest places of his soul. He is writing a story that lets others into those vulnerable places. He’s allowing God and others to help him write a new story, a better story, out of the trials he experienced.
What’s your story? Are you letting your story define you? Or do your godly values push against the story and change the narrative? Does your story allow God to have influence and presence? Are you writing a story that, because God is a part of it, is a story that’s different and worth reading and listening to? Take some time to reflect on your story. With God, you can author a better story!