For as long as I remember, I have loved stories. While growing up I read all the time. Even now, books are among my favorite things. Spending the day at a library or bookstore ranks at the top of my list. My kids love to read and listen to stories too. Some of their preferred tales are those from my childhood. “Mom, tell me a story of when you were a kid” has been a common bedtime phrase spoken by little mouths in my home. Sometimes I really have to think hard to remember one they haven’t heard yet!
Stories are powerful. They are used to teach, share information, develop relationships, evoke emotion and inspire, among other things. We see the vast significance of story in the Bible with Jesus’ use of parables. Time and time again he was telling stories to people around him. People gravitated to him to hear his stories. People hemmed him in on either side just to be close, knowing that whatever came out of his mouth was worth hearing!
According to several sources, the Bible is the most distributed and read book of all time. Of course that comes as no surprise to many of us. Billions and billions of Bibles have been published throughout history in just about every language you can think of. Why the incredible demand for this book? I believe it is because when we read the Bible we experience God. Through the stories, we identify with others and learn about God. If we are open and yearning to know God, He reveals Himself to us and draws our hearts close to His. When that happens, everything changes; true and miraculous transformation occurs. Our hearts become linked to God’s and then we have one powerful story to tell.
For those of you who have experienced this life changing phenomenon with the living, breathing God of the Bible, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know why people in 3rd world countries who don’t have a Bible would do anything to get one. You understand why many of us have several different Bibles, why no one ever wants to give one away and why some Bibles are precious keepsakes passed down from generation to generation.
Even in our technologically advanced society where we can get most books on our devices, hard copies have not gone out of style. Many people I know (myself included) would much rather hold a book in their hands to read instead of a Kindle. The smell of the pages, the feel of the binding and the ink print make the words jump off the page for so many readers who become very engrossed in their literature of choice.
When we think about reading the stories of others, our minds often go to well-known people who have had major “success” in their lives or have done “great” things in their time on Earth. It is wonderful to read about the stories of individuals who have made a huge impact on a broad scale in this world. But I believe, it is just as important to know the stories of the “everyday Joe’s” of this world because they have made a huge impact on this world too. It’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to think that our stories don’t matter and to minimize the impact that we have on the world. Just ask George Bailey, he will tell you the truth. If we passed over stories that someone deemed insignificant, we would miss a lot about our world, family and faith history. Even the simplest story can make things come alive in our minds and hearts.
We have to be careful that we don’t get too wrapped up in the surface story so that we miss the story behind the story. It is easy to credit individuals for their own stories and ignore God’s handiwork behind the scenes. Every story has layers and there is usually much more beyond the words on the page.
It is easy to focus on the “big” stories of others and diminish the script that our everyday lives outline. It used to be that you really had to “be somebody” in order for people to want to hear your story and to have it published. We are living in a day and age where people are hungry for the stories of others. There are countless ways for your words and experiences to reach others, electronically and via hard copy.
“But why on Earth would people want to hear my story?”
That’s a question that I have asked God several times over the years. God has been prompting me to share my story in print for a long time now. I did write a blog several years ago and share on a Facebook page. You can check those out here:
To be honest, other commitments and insecurity crowded out God’s voice regarding my writing and it has been over four years since I have written anything for a platform like this. I’m not proud to admit it, but I have argued with God about this quite a bit. I came up with all the excuses in the book, apparently they didn’t hold water because here I am.
All of my logic and practical reasons were completely invalid next to the eternal wisdom of the One who was from the beginning and created the heavens and the earth. They were void because they were all about me. It took a little bit for God to get through to me that it wasn’t about me at all. It’s ALL about Him. It’s His story in me and because it is His story, people will want to hear it and it will be used for good.
I argued over and over. Finally one day this past summer, while walking on a country road past a beautiful field, I heard a response that cut through my humanness and I was changed.
“Shannon, it’s not about you. It’s about MY work in you, MY transformation, grace, mercy and faithfulness. It’s about who I am and what I have done and continue to do in and through you. It’s about spreading MY message and furthering MY kingdom. It’s not about what people think of you. It’s about what people think of ME. It’s about sharing MY story through your experiences. I use imperfect people in perfect ways and I want to do the same with you. The story you have to share is important and like no other. This is a chance to fulfill a call I have on your life. By allowing others to enter into your story, you give Me more opportunities to transform their messes into their message, just like I did for you. All you have to do is follow me and I will take care of the rest.”
Now how in the world can I argue with that? How could I not want to share my story to praise the amazing God who brought me back from darkness and the gates of death and possibly help someone else? How could I not be excited to boast about the God that changed my life? And what about all those people who have walked with me, pouring out their stories which have pointed me to victory? Had they not allowed me to enter into their tales, where would I be now?
I John 1:4 says, “We are writing these things so that you can fully share our joy.”
In order for myself and others to experience full and complete joy, I need to share my story and hear the stories of others.
The Great Commission in the Bible, the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, instruct us to go and share our stories with others.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
God doesn’t say to go and beat people over the head with great sounding Christianese or just read Scripture to them. Instead He says to go and make disciples. Of course God knew what He was doing and gave us a model for disciple-making through the life of Jesus in his public ministry. Jesus’ disciples were his friends because they had close relationships in which they shared their stories.
There are also many great blessings for the person doing the sharing. As I have had the opportunity to share my story with others, I have experienced healing, freedom and empowerment. There is something powerful that happens when we bring things out in the light and put them out in the open. When we shine a flashlight on things that have held us in bondage, they no longer have the authority to control us like they once did. It’s just like putting a nightlight in a child’s bedroom. Once the room is not completely dark, it isn’t so scary. I know I have definitely shied away from sharing the dark parts of my life. But once some light was shed on them, even just a small nightlight, God had space to come in. Once I allow God into my stories, everything is changed. We are as sick as our secrets.
Stories don’t have to be complex to make an impact. Some of the simplest stories are the ones that stick with us the most. Basically all you need is a beginning, middle and end. One sentence for each and you got yourself a story! When I look at it that way, telling my story doesn’t seem so intimidating.
Recently my pastor preached on our stories and he simply stated to complete each phrase.
- Before Jesus I……
- When I met Jesus…….
- After I met Jesus……..
I have also heard,
- What were you like?
- What happened?
- What are you like now?
So here I am to share my story in obedience to God’s call, knowing that He will work through the words to bring about His will. My hope and prayer is that what you read will bring glory and honor to the Almighty and turn your eyes upon Him. I am so grateful that I have the privilege of shining the flashlight on my experiences here with you.
So what about you, what’s your story?
Check out Big Daddy Weave’s “My Story” and be encouraged to share your story with someone today.
Come back next Wednesday to read about how my holes have been my path to God. Better yet subscribe on the right side of the page to receive an email alerting you every time I post new content so you don’t miss a thing.