Telling A Better Story

“What we do comes out of who we believe we are.” –Rob Bell

I’ve heard another one of my other favorite authors, Donald Miller (Christian hipster alert), talk about the importance of story in our lives and, particularly, the role of God as the author of our own stories. I’m not going to get into the recent blogosphere squabble Don started by talking about men authoring love stories for women or anything like that. I’m not going to unleash my thoughts on feminism or, heaven forbid, dating. I actually wrote the following part of this post over a year ago—before Rachel Held Evans’ response to Donald Miller’s post with “My story is more interesting than that”—for reals.

What I am going to talk about and what I agree with both of them on, is that stories matter. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we believe we are living matter a great deal.

If we believe the story that life is meaningless, we’re going to act like nothing matters. If we believe that the problems of the world are too big and too complicated to make a difference, we’re not going to do anything to make a difference.

Maybe you believe that you are nothing more than a body to be lusted after or rejected.

There’s a better story.

Maybe you believe that you are what you produce.

There’s a better story.

Maybe you believe you’re too busy to make a difference.

Maybe you believe you don’t have any skills or talents that are useful.

Maybe you believe, deep down, that if people knew the real you they would be disgusted.

There’s a better story.

Maybe you believe your past mistakes will dictate your future.

Maybe you believe you are powerless to help.

There’s a better story.

It doesn’t exactly sound like the normal Christian activities: pray, read the Bible, go to church….practice letting God author your life story? (I guess Jesus take the wheel comes pretty close to the idea). My love story with God is really just the story of letting God write my story–how meta is that? Or at least letting God’s story about me be the main story I believe.

What story do you believe?

Check back next week to read more about the ways I’ve learned to believe and live a better story.


3 thoughts on “Telling A Better Story

  1. Alexander says:

    I think "letting God write your story" is very different from "letting God's story about me be the main story I believe." And that is very different from "you should write a story you think God will like." These all seem to me to imply different levels of autonomy, and I would say some perceived autonomy is more important for some people than others. How, to use a loaded term, "predestined" are our stories? Do you want Jesus to take the wheel, or do you want Jesus to teach you to drive? Does he let you Google Maps for him?Are stories the only way? Should I believe any story at all? (At a certain level, I think the answer is yes, but see the link below) If I do not believe any stories, can God still exist for me? (A storyless life is kind of like a fricitionless surfaces, but whatever).Here is a favorite little bit of mine from a story skeptic:

  2. Aly says:

    Alex,Thanks for the response. These are all great questions. And ahhh, there are so many things I could say. What I will say is…I agree that "letting God write your story," "letting God's story about me be the main story I believe," and "you should write a story you think God will like" have significant differences and implications, especially in regards to autonomy. I think your ability to distinguish the nuanced differences in the "stories" we tell ourselves illustrates the power and importance of words and stories in our lives. The thing that both Tyler Cowen and I agree on is that stories matter. They have an incredible influence on our lives, our decisions, and our actions. Which is why he is suspicious, and why I am such a proponent of learning to tell and live better stories. I don't think our stories are predestined. Or at least I believe we have the power to analyze, reflect on, and change the stories we tell ourselves. As for the stories we SHOULD believe and the amount of control Jesus should have on the wheels of our lives, I don't know. Maybe I'm the naive story glutton with an ever-dropping IQ, but I like being happy with my story. My love of stories is coupled with a love of questioning, analyzing, and being altogether suspicious. And personal experience. Honestly, my life without God and my life filled with awful, self-condemning stories sucked. On my own, I make up pretty crappy stories with pretty crappy endings that oscillate between self-destruction and self-delusion. I figure if my life is going to be governed by stories, I might as well give the divine Author a bit more editorial liberty. I think it is possible to believe in God without story. I don't think it's possible to live a storyless life.God refers to himself only as the great "I am." In theory, a person could believe in a God who simply is without any added narrative. But practically, I think we're too programmed to fill in the blank. God is________: good, just, awful, mean, distant, etc. I think that, whether you want to or not, you are believing a lot of stories about yourself and God and the world and your role in the world. (you personally and the royal you/we) I guess the alternative to stories is to just be. To just live in your mess, as Cowen says. Which may not be an altogether ludicrous option. But then again, even telling yourself that stories don't matter is a story.

  3. Susan Lewis says:

    So much to think about. How much power the stories we believe about ourselves has over us as we go about our lives, somehow deep down believing a lot of erroneous, destructive lies that we don't even know are there, so we don't question them. For me, what God says about my story has freed me to develop new stories based on who He says I am. And that is powerful and freeing.

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