Everyone loves a good story. Whether in the form of still pictures, words on a page, moving images, audible noise or paint on a canvas, stories are deeply desired. Action, mystery, romance, horror, comedy or grand adventure…it matters not, as long as the story captures the readers and turns them into participants in the story.
I love stories. I love to recall the past. I love to imagine the possible. I love to escape reality.
My favorite stories, if I’m really honest, are the stories that give me attention.
I vaguely remember my four or five year old self standing in the center of my grandparents’ living room with about 20 older cousins gathering around as I told story after story of this woman with hair like a golden beam of sunshine. I suppose now-a-days I would call the stories “blonde jokes”. These stories that left my small lips taught me to crave the nods, praises, affection and encouraging laughter I received when I said what people wanted to hear.
The stories I’ve grown up to love center around myself.
Like the story of the doctors telling my mom the baby in her womb wasn’t worth celebrating because of the displaced endometrial tissue disorder that would prevent her from carrying the baby to term. Months later, a beautiful black-haired, screaming pink baby proved God’s miraculous way of surprising this dim world and causing a family to celebrate naming the baby “Hilary” meaning cheerful or merry.
Or the story of how I ended up leaving a familiar way of living, moving to a new city, saying goodbye to friends, family, financial security, a sensible career and a boy declaring his love for me…just to obediently and somewhat blindly follow what God had for me, neither grand nor glamorous.
Or the one where I said yes, fearful and unsure to an honorable man pursuing me with the gentle admiration and respect, embarking on the wildest journey thus far.
Then there’s the story of my car starting on fire in the middle of Indiana. And the one where the bike mutilated my left heel, and I broke my collar bone and arm, all in one summer, at the age of 2. There’s the story of loving campers and ziplining in North Dakota. And the one where I drove a 15 passenger van in Mexico. There’s the story of hiking in Montana, almost getting stranded, and running 5 miles down the mountain to beat the setting sun. There’s the story of dumping my 1st grade boyfriend because he hit my sister with a rubber snake. And the one where I held little Jamaican babies.There’s the story of snowy rides in a spotless car with my grandparent-like neighbors. And the story of playing piano alongside my grandma with Alzheimer’s, for a brief moment before she forgot how again. There’s the story of ice fishing and sledding with my dad. And the story of eating cassava in Mozambique. There’s the stories of mulberry picking, horse riding, and ice skating with my sister. There’s the story of racing home-made sailboats and breaking into a haunted house in college. And there’s the story of navigating through Ephesus alone. There’s the stories of frog races, cops & robbers, and doing tae bo in swimsuits.
I love stories. I love these stories…I suppose because they’re about me.
But what if these stories aren’t actually about me?
What if there’s a better way to look at the stories, a more truthful way to retell the stories? What if these stories really are just part of a bigger story? A story that “came before, finishes, corrects and ultimately makes sense of all other stories”?
Then, I’d need a larger lens. I’d need to admit my deep yearning to be connected, valued, and noticed. I’m in many ways, still that little girl, begging for attention and approval that comes from telling stories. Maybe I’m no longer standing in my grandparents’ living room telling blonde jokes, but I’m just as desperate to intertwine an audience with myself.
What then? What if these stories of mine were really just part of a bigger story? Then I’d need to acknowledge I am not the ultimate author or storyteller.
The greatest Storyteller of all time knew how to captivate an audience…transforming the listeners into the very characters developed in the story. The ultimate Author is still writing new stories. The greatest Narrator is still inviting people to find themselves in the stories, old and new.
All these years I’ve basked in the attention I thought these stories gave me, but really, it is just a glimmer compared to the marvelous fame God receives from the stories. God is the hero, the lead artist, the main character, the one who saves the day. The Maker of all, the Giver of stories, the Generator of ideas, the Voice speaking truth, the Editor, Publisher, Producer, & Distributor.
How great it is to be part of something bigger! How freeing to end the incessant critic-reading. How relieving to write with no one looking over your shoulder. How exhilarating to retell stories, pointing the audience to a fresh way of hearing the story. How redemptive is His work!
May you tell your story today. And somewhere in the process, may you realize that it’s not really your exclusive story, but just a part of a magnificent God story that draws listeners in as they find themselves a midst this incredible redemptive story.