I’ve often found stories to be a little dangerous.
Let me explain. I know we’re supposed to be telling our stories and celebrating the ones around us, but it just strikes me that whenever we do, there’s potential to elevate people above the Author. Combine that with our culture’s preference for more glittery stories over the simpler ones, and it feels like sharing our stories could feed our pride or lead to performance-driven faith.
Perhaps I’m the only one who struggles with this, but, for example, a lot of times when I hear a podcaster interview a woman about what they do, my mind moves quickly towards what I could do, possibly to make a name for myself, more than it dwells on what Christ has done and how the cross sets my heart free to love him in action.
But ever since I attended the conference Hope Spoken last month, God has been chipping away at my misguided attitude towards the popular storytelling emphasis in Christian culture. Namely, the problem lies not with the storytelling itself but inside my own heart.
While those of us who struggle in this way may be tempted to shrink back from the “Your story matters” theme, I’m learning that there can be just as much pride in not sharing my story.
Withholding my story because I’m afraid it will make too much of me doesn’t accomplish the goal of making much of God. It’s allowing my sin, fear, and shame to rule.
And it’s true that some of us listen to others’ stories and are prone to think more highly of the louder, shinier, more dramatic accomplishments over the behind-the-scenes, quieter, perhaps unfinished works of submission hidden away in the heart. Perhaps we covet stories that aren’t ours. Yet I’m realizing now that to run from celebrating all of our stories only leaves one winner: the enemy.
I see it now. I’d been running from STORY because I feared all of the things in my heart it would bring to light. Now my prayer is that I’d embrace my story – and others’ – in a way that shouts the goodness of God and that I’d let Him work on those areas of my heart prone to sin.
For me, storytelling has a way of revealing all of the pride, the ways I seek people’s approval, the comparing, and the performance-driven tendencies I lean toward, but why not welcome what the stories say about our Creator and let God deal with the heart-junk that shows up in the process?
I arrived at Hope Spoken right out of the most stressful week I remember having in a long time. I was a tired, weary mess. There had been too much busyness and too little rest, and the words and actions being squeezed out of me were not pretty. I was looking forward to sitting still at Jesus’ feet that weekend and letting Him fill my empty heart right back up with His love.
And that’s exactly what He did. I just didn’t expect the way He’d do it. The flood of His love came as I listened to so many women’s stories, and it kept happening all weekend long.
Story after story, I heard how Jesus met people in their valleys and had done the most amazing things to heal, deliver, and strengthen. And each one caused me to reflect on my own past deliverances and discover common threads of who God is and the kinds of things He does. Nothing could have confirmed His love and filled my soul like hearing God had done things in others’ lives that He had also done for me.
I kept wanting to shout “Me too!!!” at so many of the women who shared. Hearing them, God led me to reflect on similar ways He’d been good to me and all I could do was praise Him for it.
He was also inviting me to consider who He is in the middle chapters, the stories He’s writing right now. The ones with unknown endings. The scary ones. He’s calling me to remember the good He has promised and walk in thanks for what He’s doing and what He will do, even if I can’t see how it’s all going to play out. He reminded my heart why He can be trusted.
So all in all, the weekend’s emphasis on storytelling made me feel loved in a fresh way I hadn’t expected and drove me to worship my Savior more deeply for how He’d shown up for those women and for me. Yes, it was dangerous in how it brought up some of my insecurities, how it made me face the envy and the fears I’ve grown too comfortable with, but it was more beautiful in how His love overwhelmed me and opened me up to grace working on those things in my heart.
I don’t want to live scared of stories. Mine or anyone else’s. I want to seek and see Christ in all, to boldly declare who He is and how He’s shown up in my life, and not let the dangers hold me back from sharing those things. It’s God who designed and empowers our stories.
Why do I forget that God is the Original Storyteller? He chose story as the prime method for revealing Himself – His Word unfolding the gospel through story after story, all shouting One Great Story. Our stories point to His Story, and that’s what makes them matter. It’s not a silly trend and it’s not hype; it’s God’s heart.
Have you struggled with any of those things? Tell me how you guard against those wrong perspectives and still embrace this amazing gift our storytelling is meant to be!