We all have stories. Some are hilarious – shared over breathless laughter. Some stories are nostalgic – taking us to times past when things were different and, seemingly, simpler. Others are heartbreaking – aching with sadness and tears, provoking empathy from listeners as sorrow is shared. For better or worse, these anecdotes are indelibly pressed on hearts and minds, shaping relationships and futures.
However, at some point, I feel like the word ‘story’ got hijacked. Marketers, businesses, and celebrities continue to learn how to use the power of story to capture an audience. The best (and seemingly most emotionally manipulative) stories win. In the Church, story seems to have replaced the word ‘calling’ as the buzzword meaning “the big, flashy destiny that is yours if you only hold on (for one more day)” (you’re welcome for that…)
I’m guilty of buying into the above definition. For much of my life I’ve warred in the idea of story. Is it a truly a destination? Or is it a journey? If it’s a destination, why does it feel like so many people are making it to this great apex of happiness, fulfillment and contentment before me? If it’s a journey, where am I going and why is it taking so long? The longer I wrestle, the more I finally start to understand that story and calling are not destinations. It is a journey with the words of the Lord imprinted on the soul, where most can’t see them. A strange mix of light and darkness, peace and war. But I’m beginning to see the most beautiful stories start with ordinary moments.
This is the beauty of Christmas. Jesus chose to reveal Himself in the mundane. His birth was announced to a handful of mismatched people. Poverty was His birthright. Much of His life is a mystery. When He did rise to public ministry, He was treated with disdain and mockery because He looked unimpressive, was a carpenter by trade and hailed from Nazareth. He put on flesh and dwelt among us. Not as a king or a ruler, but as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
In all the talk about story, we miss the simple example Jesus gave us. It isn’t about the enormity of the call, but about the obedience applied in the context of that call. It isn’t about the most followers or friends, the number or readers or the size of a church congregation. Our story should be about the faithfulness and love we express in commitment to living out the life He’s laid out for, where He’s put us.
This is my prayer as I head into the new year: to be faithful. To stop yearning for something bigger and better than where He’s put me and simply abide. For it’s in abiding that I can finally, truly live out my story.
What are your thoughts on the power of story? What challenges do you face in faithfully living yours out? What is your prayer 2014?