[Last night, campers roared the lyrics of One Direction’s “The Story of My Life,” which was stupendous to hear and mighty to behold – but my musings about the collective roar led me far beyond the walls of camp, so for today, I digress.]
Stories are the thing right now. (For bookish, literary folk, stories have always been the thing; so in at least this one way, the bookish, literary folk are ahead of their time – even though many of us love stories that are in fact before our time.)
In today’s narrative culture, “Tell me about yourself,” is entirely passé. Anyone who knows anything (and who is even the least bit Christo-hipster) knows that “Tell me your story” is the singular way to start a legitimate conversation.
And telling one’s story is, in truth, a meaning-full act. Our stories do matter – just maybe not in the way we think or have been told.
Teenagers (all of us) are bombarded with stories, each one more exciting and colorful and dramatic than the one before. And while it can be exhilarating to be bombarded with exciting and colorful and dramatic stories, it can also be depressing and dangerous. What if my story pales in comparison? What if my story doesn’t measure up? What if my story is entirely unexciting, uncolorful, and undramatic?
The world (and sometimes those in the Church) would say: well then, go out and write a better story for yourself – as if an ear for narrative and an eye for revision are the answers to what ails us.
Having a better story sounds lofty. Noble. Spiritual, even.
But I think that having – (or rather living, which is not quite the same thing as having) – a real story is the thing that actually matters, and real stories – however unexciting, uncolorful, and undramatic they may seem on the surface – are the only stories worth living.
The problem with ‘writing a better story for ourselves’ is that we are all of us pitiful life-story authors. We fumble around with plots and conflicts and settings and characters, hoping to somehow weave them into a tale for the ages. But we are not life-story authors, not a single one of us. Rather, we are one character (a character who does not get to determine the actions and attitudes of other characters, which is a bitter disappointment, indeed) in a much larger Real Story (a story into which we are graciously invited as a full-fledged and beloved player but not the major protagonist, which is a beyond-bitter disappointment, decidedly).
Though personal stories matter, and though desiring to live a better story is perhaps a fine goal, it is exceedingly trite for people of faith to reduce God to being merely the Author of My Story, or more grandly The Author of Life. Rather, God is the only Authority of life. All of life. Every single life. Life now and forever.
Further, inviting God (humbly, no doubt) to be the author of my life leaves open the door (very, very wide open) for me to then be the eager editor of my life who will zealously reorganize, revise, and rewrite the story more to my own liking. If we are pitiful life-story authors, we are even more surely blundering life-story editors.
I will live a better story – a better life – only if I recognize God’s authority, fully embracing it with both heart and mind (Christ abiding in me), and both heart and mind being fully embedded in it (I abiding in Christ).
On paper, it may not sound like much. But we are not paper stories. We are living stories. And a living story composed and centered around the Authority of Christ is, indeed, a story for the ages.