“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony;” Revelation 12:11
I have loved stories my whole life. As a little girl, I read about Sam’s dislike of green eggs and ham and laughed at Curious George’s antics. I pretended I was Laura, playing in the attic with my corn cob doll while Pa played his fiddle. I searched desperately for a magic wardrobe so that I could enter Narnia and meet Aslan. I looked for Charlotte in every spiderweb and wished I could float down a chocolate river with the Oompa-Loompas. As a parent, I shared my love of stories with my children, making frequent trips to the library, returning with piles of books. We giggled at Pooh’s simple brain, traveled around the world with Phileas Fogg, solved mysteries with Frank, Joe, and Nancy, and fought dragons with Bilbo Baggins. As an adult, I still love stories, cheering with Emma when she finds her Mr. Knightly, hoping Jean Valjean is vindicated, chuckling at Don Quixote’s assumptions, and hoping Frodo finishes his quest.
The love of stories transcends all cultures, ages, and times, capturing the hearts of people everywhere. Heroes and heroines fill our imaginations with hope and awaken in us the desire for adventure and significance. Even cultures with no written language have oral traditions rich with stories. What is even more amazing is how often similar themes of stories exist among different cultures. For example, the story of Cinderella, as depicted by Disney, is based on the Western European version written by the Grimm brothers. When my daughter was little, we discovered Native American, Korean, and Indian versions of the same story, written by different authors in different places and times.
Even the various authors of the Bible, inspired by God, wrote large portions of the Bible in the form of stories. We learn about the plight of all humans in the Garden of Eden. We see the rescue of a baby boy by an Egyptian princess, only to see him grow up to challenge Pharaoh. We see the redemption of a faithful daughter-in-law. We watch David start off as a shepherd playing a harp, grow into a young man who defeats a giant and later a king with a rebellious son. As the Old Testament continues, kingdoms rise and fall with various rulers and prophets playing lead roles. In the New Testament, three gospels recount the story of a simple carpenter and his teenage fiancé giving birth in a dirty stable to the Savior of the whole world, Jesus. Miracles happen throughout Jesus’ ministry with the biggest miracle unfolding in his death and subsequent resurrection. Shipwrecks, poisonous snakes, and jail breaks due to worship service are a few of the stories we read in the book of Acts, as different people are changed by the Holy Ghost, later becoming disciples of God. The Bible ends with an exiled disciple’s vision of fantastical beasts, battles, and the end of the natural world.
We cannot forget that God had an overarching theme to the whole Bible, all the stories are part of a bigger picture, the story of God. It tells about His creation, humanity’s fall, His redemption, and His restoration: the metanarrative of the whole Bible. God cares about stories! More importantly, He cares about the parts each of us play in His story.
Over the course of four years, I read biographies of each of our presidents. These were men who shaped policy and the direction in America. It was an incredible scope of American history seen through the stories of these men’s lives. But more than just American history, these were the stories of the events that shaped them as men. For example, Teddy Roosevelt was devastated when he lost his first wife and mother in the same day. He disappeared from the political landscape for a few years. Yet during this time of escape in the Badlands, he rekindled his love of the outdoors, along with a renewed sense of purpose, eventually leading him to the presidency. As a young man, Harry Truman, worked for his Jewish neighbors while they practiced their Sabbath. This later influenced his decision to recognize Israel as an independent nation. These stories, and many more, changed my own perspective on the presidency. It helped me to see them as ordinary men, like you and I, who had extraordinary opportunities to do great things.
Like these men, we all have stories, stories that have power in our lives. These stories shape and mold us into the people we are. They define our passions, determine our strengths, push our fear buttons, trigger our anger, and sometimes hold us captive. In the past few years, my husband and I have spent some time understanding our own individual stories and each other’s. Sometimes, this work was hard, exposing character flaws and leaving us feeling vulnerable. Yet, this understanding has led to healing and wholeness that we needed individually and in our marriage. Furthermore, it has helped me overcome destructive habits and patterns in my life. In Revelations 12:11, the Bible states, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Knowing my story helps me overcome!!!
Over the next three posts, I am going to explore the power of stories through the following topics:
I. The importance of knowing your story, as well as how it impacts you and your relationships with others
II. The importance of acknowledging that others have a story. This acknowledgement frees us from judgmental attitudes and increases our empathy towards others. I hope to explore the importance of creating communities that are safe for people to share their stories
III. The importance of relating your story in the context of God’s story. Our lives are so much larger than the few years we live on this earth. We have the power to impact others by reflecting Christ in our lives
The following quote from Christian therapist and author, Dan Allender, sums up what I hope to convey in these upcoming posts. In his book, “To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future”, Allender says, “So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze.”
Yes, “reading your own life” can be hard work, akin to reading Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and deciphering the many Russian character names. Yes, it can leave you feeling vulnerable, like Louis Zamperini did in the Japanese POW camp in “Unbroken.” But it can also result in finding a treasure beyond imagination like Mary did in the “The Secret Garden” or Oliver did in “Oliver Twist.”