Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Power of a Story

I've been doing a lot of thinking the last couple of days about the power of a story. How a simple reading or hearing of someones story can have an impact on our lives. I have many friends who share bits and pieces of their "story" with me each time we sit down and chat, and they too get bits and pieces of my "story" but in the end what do our stories mean?

One of these days I will sit down and write the story of my life, however, I think about this and realize that in fact I am not the author of my own story, God is. BUT when I make the claim that God is the author of my story then it brings those questions that we all come up with and try to answer (the if God is the author of my life is God responsible for the death of loved ones, young friends, ect.). Do I have the perfect answer for these questions, not at all, but what I do know is something I was reminded of in a children's sermon on Sunday morning. I am a child of God and this means that I belong to God and God loves me.

Does God "cause" evil and suffering, no, God sustains me and walks along side me in my suffering. It is no hidden secret that we live in a hateful and oppressive world. A world where parents abuse children, people face addiction problems, friends are raped, wars rage on, slavery still exists, we find gender inequality, and racism still destroys communities.
I have seen just about all of these things, I have caused some of these things, and yet for some reason when someone hears the story of my life (a life that is not my own) they are amazed that I have "turned into the woman I am today".

So why does my story hold power? Is it because I've trusted in the grace of God and held tight to God's word? Is it because I often find myself taking care of others at the cost of my own health? Is it because I overcame the odds that were stacked against me to become educated and stand up to make a difference in the world around me?

I believe it is because "all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." And in Ephesians we find scripture saying that we are all one in Christ, we all have gifts to build each other up and to work to equip the saints for the work of God (Ephesians 4). God uses each and every "story" that we have for good. God takes our brokenness and binds us together in community with others. God takes our anger and shows us peace, our hate and shows us love, our darkness and shows us light. We all have a purpose in this life and our stories reflect that.

In reading through a Herald and Presbyter publication from 1906 I ran across a paragraph that pulled this story idea together. You see when I look at the world around me, the universe, I do feel quite insignificant. When people want to hear my story I am quick to say that it is not a story about me but a story about how God is at work through me, in me, and around me. But this little passage from the Herald and Presbyter is beautiful and talks about how God takes our insignificant lives and makes them significant because God is the author, God is at work, and therefore we are working for something that is greater than our self.

"God needs you. You are not your own, either to be insignificant or great, but you are in the service of that which is greater than yourself, and that service touches your life with its own greatness. It is as though you were a lighthouse keeper, set to do your own duty on your rock. Can any life be more unpraised or insignificant? Why sit through the weaery nights to keep your flame alive? Why not sleep on, all unobserved, and let your little light go out? Because it is not your light,-that is the point. You are set there with this as your trust. The great design of the Power you serve takes you thus out of your insignificance." -The Herald and Presbyter, May 1906

In our stories we sometimes feel like the lighthouse keeper set on a rock in the middle of nowhere. We feel alone, we feel worthless, but God calls us to be a light unto the world and God sets us up to be so. As I continue to ponder and write my story out (I am only 20 years old and I think this could take a while) I will continue to keep in mind this Power that I serve and how God takes me from insignificant to loved and having a purpose. My story is changing each day and as I begin a new journey in this life I look forward to seeing and allowing God to work in new ways and show me new things.

Continue to reflect on your life story, continue to look for God's presence, God's work, the places God seemed absent (but try to find God) and know that our lives are not insignificant...but trust that we serve a God whose purpose and spirit is greater than our very self.


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