By Michael C. Mack
Who doesn’t love a gripping story of adventure told by a master storyteller? Some of my favorites are epic sagas: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and the like.
I was reminded about the adventures of the Pilgrims as I read Bob Russell’s feature article about Thanksgiving in this issue. It’s a true story about religious convictions, bravery, suffering, perseverance, and faith. God uses stories like that to teach us and transform us. It’s why Bob used this and a story about his grandson Charlie in his article, and it’s why I often remind our writers to include compelling stories.
One of the greatest stories ever told is the story of Jesus, beginning with his conception and then his birth in Bethlehem. It’s a bigger-than-life adventure that has it all: a provocative setting, lots of drama and action, some mystery, engaging dialogue (even some inner monologue), and, of course, intriguing characters (including an extraordinary main character).
Every Christmas when our kids were young, our family gathered around our Nativity set to tell the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels. Each of our four kids had a role—our youngest, Anna, insisted on playing the angel each year—and Heidi and I were the narrators. The telling of Jesus’ story is now part of our family’s story, and that story includes stories embedded within it, like how a ceramic wise man lost his head one year . . . and, by the power of Jesus to reattach severed body parts—and a little superglue—I was able to make him whole again.
In a similar way, the story of Jesus is an indispensable part of a much bigger story, which the Bible chronicles in four acts: Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. This greater story, the ultimate drama, spans the history of humanity. It is the framework for each of our lives as Christ followers, and it gives our lives purpose, hope, and our mission.
Our personal stories are nested like Matryoshka dolls into this supreme story. God created everything, including you and me; he knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13). He created you and me as his image bearers and to be in relationship with him. He saw each of us and knew us and had a plan for our lives as part of his grand story even before we were born. Each of us is his handiwork, his masterpiece, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Yet I went my own way and preferred my will rather than his—and so have you (the Fall). The sins I’ve committed represent pages upon pages of the darker side of my story. But this is where Jesus’ story intersected with mine and changed the whole plot line. His suffering and death redeemed these sordid parts of my story. He has metaphorically torn out these damnable pages; he balled them up and cast them into oblivion (Psalm 103:12). This is where God’s grace entered my story. And that story involved people who shared their stories and God’s story with me—people like an ex-girlfriend’s grandmother, a friend I worked with, my niece, and the Christian church minister who planted a church near me and ended up baptizing me. Each played a major part in my story, and now I am a part of theirs.
As we live in Christ, and with Christ in us, our stories are filled with great joys and great sorrows, with tremendous triumphs and colossal losses, with overwhelming suffering and seeing God produce perseverance, character, and hope through them. I believe it’s good for us to realize we are not in complete control of our stories. Things often happen to us that we did not plan for or desire, but nevertheless, they become part of our stories. Just as your life is not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19), your story is not your own. No, the Master Storyteller tells his grand story through your life according to his plan and for his glory.
One day, perhaps very soon, Christ will return. God will restore his creation and once again all will be good. As unthinkable as it seems, we—his people, his bride, the wife of the Lamb—will be a part of his restoration story (see Revelation 21).
Whether you are flourishing or failing, know that your story—your life—is a gift from God. It’s part of his greater story; he has a reason and a purpose for every part of it.
And this gift from God is meant to be given away to others. Recovery movements like the 12 Steps have discovered the power of carrying your story of spiritual awakening to others who need to hear it. And when you do—although you expect nothing in return—your own joy, satisfaction, and sense of godly purpose expand.
As you gather with friends and family over the next couple months, I want to encourage you to let God tell his story and make his appeal through you (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). It’s amazing that God chooses to use imperfect people like us to tell his love story of redemption and restoration . . . and he uses our redemptive stories to tell the world about his grace.
Let God tell his story, through you, for his glory!