This morning, I dropped off a CD of The Civil Wars for the middle school teacher who is producing Beth’s show of “Footloose” (like how I could advertise two things in one sentence, there? If you click on “Footloose,” the link will take you to a page to purchase tickets to one of the production nights). Can you believe that she had not heard of them? I went to two Target stores and a Best Buy store in the effort to educate her, and they were all sold out in two of the three stores! Other people know who The Civil Wars are too!
As I walked the halls of the middle school, I passed a bulletin board covered in note cards. In the center, a poster asked the question, “What is your story?” Each of the note cards had four or five sentences on it along with a small picture depicting a student’s story. I did not take a lot of time to read the stories, but I know that each of them would be unique because each person’s story is unique. Even if students have the same circumstances in their lives, their experience of those circumstances is unique.
I had already started thinking about a blog post for today, but I have put that idea down for a future blog post as that question got me thinking about story and the power of story in each of our lives as well as in the lives of people over the course of history.
Story – the telling of one’s life – has been the main form of communication and connection for thousands of years. Before civilizations developed a written form of language, families and countries handed down stories verbally. They told the stories around fires, they recreated events through drama, and eventually – they drew pictures to retell the story. We know so much about ancient civilizations because of their commitment to story. As a written language developed, story became central to that as well. Manuscripts that have survived from ancient times are filled with stories of men and women who fall in love, who fall on hard times, who war with one another, and who overcome great obstacles. Even the Bible is mostly filled with stories that tell us about the struggles and the victories of God’s chosen people…and we connect with the characters because they sound like we do, they struggle like we do, and they overcome like we try to overcome. If we cannot connect on some level with just King David alone, we are not human.
In my role as pastor’s wife at a church and in my position as dean of students in a school, I hear a lot of stories. Life is hard sometimes. Life is awesome sometimes. And these stories just have to be told. Keeping our story locked inside of us – whether a good story or a bad story – is hard! When great things happen to us, we want others to celebrate with us. When hard times come, we want someone to say, “Wow…that is hard. I may not understand exactly that, but I know that it is hard.”
Life has been hard since the day in the garden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and change the course of relationship with Him and with others. Our nature causes disruption in our lives, and our stories often take turns that cause us to cringe. Whether through our own poor choices, the choices of others, or the fact that disease and illness are part of our fallen state, life can be hard. We choose to steal; we go to jail. A man rapes a woman; she is scarred. Cancer takes away a loved one; we cannot breath sometimes because we miss her so much. But sharing story with one another, living life side by side, can ease the pain that life brings to us.
God created us to be in community with Him and with one another. God is a communal God – three in one…the miracle of the Trinity. When He created us in His image, He created us with a stamp of community within us. Sin shatters community and relationships – with God and with others. Through story, however, we can brought back together. God’s story – our story – is one of restoration. When God sent Christ to the cross, He did so to right the broken relationship between us and Him. When we share with one another, connect through our stories, we restore relationships and restore community. This is the miracle of the cross.
Story speaks to some of our most basic needs: to be known and to be heard. Taking the time to share with one another needs to become a priority again. Sitting around the fire and sharing our story is not something we do in often enough in our busy society. How can we make time for this? Who needs to share a story with me today?
What’s your story?