There's something inescapable about a good story because it traps you in itself. The characters inspire us, the settings invite us to environments foreign to us, and the plots can often remind us of our own lives. I wonder, though, how much we consider our own lives to be “good stories.”
We are all walking stories, whether we care to admit it or not. It’s hard to live life on planet Earth without contributing to one’s own story because each day we “write” another page in our personal stories by simply living life. Sometimes we consider the pages we write to be uninteresting, and sometimes we feel ashamed about what we write. Some days, however, we manage to write masterpieces and feel, not just content, but happy with where we are heading. Most of the time, though, I think we consider the pages we write to be average--nothing special. We simply try to get by and make the most of what life’s handed to us.
It’s easy to think less of oneself because if we “set the bar low,” the less we will be disappointed when life goes awry. We say, “See? Told you my life was nothing special,” when we fail to get the job, have a miscarriage, get fired, go into debt, get divorced, have our house foreclosed, etc. Conversely, if we “set the bar high,” expect ourselves to be something great, and hope to inspire others, the harder we crash back down to “reality” when things don’t pan out as expected. Either way, whether we are optimistic or pessimistic with our personal stories, the same premise seems to permeate (most of) our self-perceptions: we are average, dull, live mundane lives and write mundane stories.
Of course, we hear about other people’s great stories, where the “bar was set high,” and how they succeeded. We hear how their “son inspired millions with overcoming his disability” or their “daughter is the president of a successful non-profit organization that is bringing water to people in Africa.” We hear the “rags to riches” stories and attempt to learn from them, but all too often we fail to translate their story into ours and end up even more discouraged. Sometimes we don’t even try to emulate those “heroes.” In the face of these stories, it’s hard to not look at our own stories with disdain. There is something repulsive about success stories to those who have grown accustomed to failure.
Is there any way out of this rubble of mundanity? Must we continue living ordinary lives?
What if they’re not ordinary? Maybe we no longer need to find “good stories” in books or movies because we already have a good story all around us that's waiting for us to join in.
Do you believe it? Could you believe it?
God is in the middle of the greatest epic of them all, and he invites us to join it. He will not only turn our stories into good stories, he will turn them into great stories once we enter his narrative. The outcome of our stories depends on how we respond to God’s invitation to join his story.
Some may think their story is hopeless because they are in a low spot in life, and that not even God could make their ending good. Indeed, it’s hard to think of one’s story as good when it is in the middle of a conflict.
But have we forgotten that all good stories involve conflict? ALL stories involve conflict; it’s a part of our daily lives. We may tend to think that conflict is akin to a bad ending, but there’s more to the story.
God is still writing.
Don’t let your story end at the conflict; let God finish it with greatness. All we must do is trust him as the Author, and trust that he will always provide us with the strength to finish our stories well. In fact, he already has provided so much strength in Jesus. Christ’s story can become our own story, and our redemption in him is the foundation for our stories to mend. We are redeemed so that we can live better stories that are filled with forgiveness, perseverance, courage, hope, love, faith, reconciliation, etc. We can see our stories as “good stories” when we see them as part of Christ’s story.
Jesus’ story is what guarantees that ours will be great because we already know how it’s going to end--it’s going to end better than we can imagine because it’s not going to end. Stories, like Christ’s, that end with redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness can never end because they continually make life better. Stories with these elements are far better than stories that conclude with bitterness, revenge and hate. The decay of bitterness, revenge and hate can only survive when there’s something to devour. Contrarily, redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness can’t devour anything because they are only able to build and construct better lives.
God has invited us into a story that trumps any ending we could garner for ourselves. He promises to validate our stories by making them great. We can live in a story like those “good stories” that we love.