By Matt Sapp
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. He’s great.
He’s helped me think about the nature of story, specifically the idea that story is much more than objective narrative; it’s more than just the facts.
Story, Davis argues, is more than simply telling what happened. Story is interpretive. It’s the way we choose to frame what happened. so story becomes the way we choose to remember what happened. If past is prologue, then story becomes the way we choose to introduce our futures.
The greatest story we will ever tell is our own, and there’s great power in how we choose to tell our stories. We tell our stories 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.”
Within each of our stories is the source material for a first-class tragedy, a hope-filled comedy, or an inspiring, wonder-filled fairy tale.
So the question is, “What kind of stories are we telling 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 tell all three with candor. The choice of which story we tell is ours., and the story we choose to tell about how we got to be who we are today has tremendous power to shape who we will be tomorrow.
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, and 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.
Yet, 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. More importantly, it makes God the author and director of our stories. Although we might be people who have the power to choose how we interpret the narrative of our pasts, God has the power to shape the way our stories end—and it’s fantastic!
Holy Week is all about story. It is a story from our past that tells the story of our future, one in which our stories turn a corner. My story, your story, every story hinges on the events of Holy 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, this 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. Smile, and say under your breath, “…and that’s how I got to be who I am today.”