I sat on the couch grading some papers as the cable guy set up my Internet. A stranger always brings some mystery and I find myself curious. I wonder about this man’s story.
“Are you from Charlotte originally?” I asked.
“No, I’m from Vietnam.”
Vietnam. In one moment, I knew our lives and experiences were vastly different; I wanted to know more. His softness encouraged me to explore. At 11 years old he came to America with his 7 year old brother. Just the two of them. My mind was spinning with more questions.
“How did the two of you get over here when you were so little?”
“My mother was told that there was a family in America who was looking to sponsor two kids. She agreed to send my brother and me.”
He has two other siblings and has only been back home once since he moved here. Skype has allowed him to connect with his family often, but daily life leaves a hole. His accomplishments, his education, his disappointments, and his celebrations, even his wedding, have come and gone with a missing piece. I loved hearing him talk about his culture, his family, and what he loves about America. His story drew me in and I knew there was a depth to him wrapped around all he had experienced.
If we would pay attention, we would see that our daily lives are jam packed with stories. At the gym, in my car, or while I’m making dinner, the news alone showers me with what is going on in the lives of those around me, locally or globally. Frankly, it’s almost too much to take in. Our automatic response is to toss each story onto the conveyor belt in our minds, and let it scroll its way through. We rarely stop to take in the magnitude of what people are enduring or even what we should be celebrating with excitement. The truth is, as humans, we are drawn to stories.
But stories don’t just entertain us; stories really do matter. Jesus Himself used parables as His primary means of communicating His ideas to people. We can often forget that the Word of God is essentially the unfolding of a cosmic-level story about a Savior who would come and make all things right in a broken world. Stories are the underlying fabric that give us meaning.
God the Creator writes our individual stories. Like a book whose pages turn with new discoveries, defeats and adventures, we march forward through the chapters of our lives finding meaning and purpose as we go.
Stories connect us to one another. Not only do we feel less alone when hearing about someone else’s experiences, but as humans we understand ourselves better when we can say, “Oh, you feel that way too?” Our personal sufferings and celebrations make more sense when we know someone else identifies with us. It may even be fair to say that stories create genuine community as we feel known and safe with those who walk the same path.
However, there is always a warning in every good thing. In a world obsessed with the selfie, the snapchat story, and any other way to promote every detail of our lives, we must remember that we are the small story within the big story. Though our story matters, it matters only because there is a grand script written by the hand of God. We play a role in His plan. Our lives make the most sense when they are woven into God’s redemptive picture. Paul says in II Corinthians 3 that we are a “…letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Day in and day out we are meant to narrate His counterculture message, His ways and His purposes. As those who inhabit the Spirit we tell a contrasting story. Our lives are playing out on this stage where every turn and every next step is pulling the curtain back on a masterpiece production. Our small tales tell of His glorious work. For “We are not our own, but we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6.20);” our very bodies are the tabernacle of Jesus Himself, and therefore, our lives matter because what He is doing matters.
Dawn graduated from Messiah College with a degree in English and went on to get her master’s degree in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She presently works as a counselor and teacher in the high school at Covenant Day School in Matthews, NC and in her spare time likes to read, write and teach Bible studies. For the last 15 years her passion has been to mentor young women in life and Scripture. Dawn’s blog may be seen here: www.dawnfromphilly.blogspot.com.