WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
By DANNY MINTON
Every year at this time people tell “The Story.” It’s the story of a baby wrapped in rags, born in a stable in a remote town called Bethlehem. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise God made to Abraham thousands of years ago. Other stories continue to inspire us to do good during this time of the year. Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” is read in many homes. The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is a classic. “Miracle on 34th Street” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are stories we hear every season. We all like stories.
The movie, “Amistad,” is about a lawyer representing a group of men wrongly enslaved, taken from their home in Sierra Leone and transported to the United States. There is a scene where the lawyer, Theodore Joadson, inquiries of President John Quincy Adams, wanting to know what course of action he might take.
J: “Mr. President, if it was you handling the case, what would you do?”
P: “When I was a young lawyer I learned after much trial and error that in the courtroom whoever tells the best story wins. In un-lawyer like fashion, I give you that scrap of wisdom free of charge.”
J: “Mr. President, I thank you for your time.” (Starts to leave)
P: What is their story, by the way?”
P: “What is their story?”
J: “Why they’re, um, from West Africa.”
P: “No, what is their story?”
Mr. Joadson stares rather dumbfounded at the president.
P: “Mr. Joadson, you’re from where originally?”
J: “Why, Georgia, Sir.”
J: “Yes Sir.”
P: “Does that pretty much sum up what you are, a Georgian? Is that your story? No! You’re an ex-slave who’s devoted his life to the abolition of slavery. And overcoming great obstacles and hardships along the way, I should imagine. That’s your story, isn’t it?”
“You and this young, so-called lawyer have proven you know what they are. They’re Africans. Congratulations. What you don’t know as far as I can tell and haven’t bothered in the least to discover is … who they are.”
When we talk about the Bible and stories, we discover that the Bible is one long story that unfolds before our very eyes. It’s the story of God and man and God’s plan for man’s salvation. Intertwined throughout the Word is the history of Jesus Christ. When we read “The Story” from beginning to end, we encounter the Jesus that God desires for us to know.
But what about us? Every one of us has a story. It’s a story not only of what we are, but a story of who we are and how we became who we are through the years. Our lives are formed by our story, the story we have developed over the years. People we have met, places we’ve been, struggles we’ve faced, hardships, joys, disappoints and celebrations all come together to tell our story.
When I perform a funeral service, I like to get into the story of the person remembered. In doing this, it brings who they were alive in the eyes of those attending. People have come up to many times after the service and expressed how they wished they had known the person better. In their death, the story of their life had a profound impression on many of those attending.
Our stories can be used to bring others closer to the Lord. They can be used to give encouragement to people who are traveling similar roads that we have traveled. Our story of overcoming struggles can bring hope to those who find themselves in hard times. Our conversion story can touch the lives of those who find themselves lost. Our celebration stories can bring hope. Our story helps people to understand who we are more clearly. Knowing other’s stories helps us to communicate better. Knowing others stories helps us to understand.
I heard a story a while back about the former pro golfer, Payne Stewart. Stewart was on an airplane sitting beside another pro golfer, who was talking about the problems of fellow golfer. During the conversation, Stewart reportedly made a comment that if people knew more of the story of this man’s background, they would probably be less critical. His dad had worked long hours, and when at home had to spend most of the time sleeping, so the boys had little time with their father. They were left pretty much on their own, constantly moving to be close to their father wherever he had work. His life wasn’t easy. Only when you know someone’s story can you understand them.
The stories of Christians such as Gladys Aylward, Peggy Covell, Mitsuo Fuchida, Jake DeShazer, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, and Louis Zamperini inspire us to live greater lives for the Lord. Listening to missionary stories of people we know lifts our hearts knowing how the Lord’s message reaches the hearts of men and women in other countries. I am uplifted when I hear the stories of people I knew who were quiet servants who reached so many with the “Good News.” There are others with stories to tell that I see on any given day. I started a list but had to stop. Otherwise, I’d be listing everyone I know, because every person has a story to tell.
The first-century church spent a lot of time witnessing what Jesus had done for them. It is witnessing, telling our story, that draws people nearer to the Lord. People come away with the attitude of “If he can do that for you, I know he can do that for me.” Others commit themselves, “I want to be more like that.” Lives transform, hearts soften, and attitudes change as we hear the stories of those who have traveled the roads we face.
Take time to tell your story, if only writing it down for future family generations to come. Tell your history, especially the history of how you came to know your Lord. Share your conversion experience. Share the stories of people that have touched your lives. Keep your story alive, encouraging those who follow. Let your story be a witness to what God can do in our lives.
So now, “What’s your story?”
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.–Romans 1:11-12
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ