Now, let me tell you a story about a man named Jed … a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed …
It’s a story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls …
Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship …
Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down …
What is it about all of these TV shows that captured our attention. It was the story!
During the month of March at First Christian Church of Chicago, we experienced that sharing our stories stirred emotions and touched hearts and has the potential to change lives. Each Sunday four people shared how God has worked in their lives either to bring them to faith or grow them as believers . Some of the stories brought us to tears. Others gave us cause to celebrate.
Here are some critical points we discovered during this season:
1) People love stories. You might be thinking, “But people don’t read much anymore.” Just because people are less prone to reading has not changed that we love stories. We just don’t prefer to get them from the printed page. Just think for a moment. We engage in storytelling and story hearing on screens big and small, in watercooler conversations, and chats on the bus.
Why do we exchange stories? Because we still love them. They may help us to feel things more deeply, to experience understanding, to take a respite from reality, but the better the story the more we love it.
2) God is writing His story in your life. From the opening pages of the Bible, God has been telling His story. Yet, God’s story didn’t end when John put down his pen at the end of Revelation. He continues to write His story on the pages of our life, through His work in our lives, through the events that lead us to cry out to Him.
Yet, in a way it is even a misnomer to call it our story, our testimony. Actually, as believers, our stories are not all about us. Jesus is the central character in the story of our lives. It is a story about how He has loved us, changed us transformed us, protected and sustained us. It is a story about how we have found someone that we are able to lean into when life gets rough … how we have found someone who is able to help us out of the deepest pit.
3) You have a story to tell. I remember, growing up, reading a number of testimony stories. Testimonies always were the stories about how God saved my life when I was living in the alleys, addicted to heroin … or God delivered me from gang activity when I hid in a church when a turf war broke out. You remember those stories. It always seemed that God was bringing the most vile, the biggest criminals, the most morally corrupt to His throne. It was great.
But what I learned from that was “I’m not that bad. I’m a pretty good kid. I DON’T HAVE A STORY.” I don’t think that message was ever intended, but I heard it loud and clear.
It took years for me to understand that while hearing those amazing stories of transformation of hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and gang bangers was inspirational, most people didn’t really relate to them. But they could relate to my story. I had walked in their shoes, shared their experiences, felt their heartbeat, so when I shared how God out to me it didn’t necessarily topple them over in amazement at the awesome power of God. But it did let them see and feel how God could care for them.
Then i discovered that my story didn’t end with my conversion. I shared my story of growing up in a broken home, without a dad, being told that he denied I was his kid. I shared the story of myself as kid robbed of self-worth because it was assumed I was “mentally-retarded” since my sister has brain damage from being born without a thyroid gland. I shared my struggle with faith when my step-dad, who I saw as a leader in church, left my mom for another women. I shared my struggle with experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex to numb the disappointment. I’ve learned that 30 years of marriage provides stories, and raising five children means the stories keep on getting written.
Our stories are not limited to the events that brought us to Jesus. Our stories include the celebrations, the disasters, and the daily grind of our lives. Our stories may be being written in the delivery room, the waiting room. God may be penning the next chapter as you wait for the doctor to return, or cry at the funeral home. God reaches into all of those events and gives us a story as He teaches us to trust Him.
4) Someone needs to hear your story! The stories and experiences that God have written into your life have been written for someone else to read. Someone is currently going through the struggles, despair, grief, decision-making, joys and hopefulness that God has already brought you through. Your story may be the crucial bridge for them coming to and growing in Christ.
This is where the real difference between those dynamic testimonies and our life stories really matters. While those dynamic stories may make us “OOO” and “Ahhh”, it is these stories over everyday life shared around the table at the coffee shop, during a break at work, or as an example for your children that has the real power to transform.
5) You need to be ready to share it! Peter knowing that we would have a story to tell reminds us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have …” (1 Peter 3:15). When the door opens for you to tell your stories be ready to speak up. Think through your life. How has God been working. Write it down. Practice telling it.
If you don’t prepare in advance, the time may come for your story to make a real difference in the life of a friend, coworker, or family member, and you will miss the opportunity because you’re not prepared to speak. Don’t miss the chance.
Remember this: You are a master storyteller for no one can tell the story of how God is working in your life like you!