The Power of Story To Change Your Life

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Working from home presents unique challenges. Most of them I expected: no one tells you to get to work, more effort is required to build and maintain relationships, separating home and work life is difficult.

But I didn’t expect my youngest son, Micah, to seek every opportunity available to seize my printer paper. Assuming the fam is hanging inside and more than three minutes pass without hearing his raspy voice or plodding feet, I can be sure he’s in my office. If I don’t act quickly, he will stuff paper in bulk under his shirt, in his pants, wherever he can conceal it until returning to his room and his markers. And it’s not just printer paper. Post-it notes, index cards, books, anything with a markable surface is fair game.

You see, Micah loves to draw and color. This is a new phenomenon. But it’s fast becoming his favorite pastime.

What does he draw? Shapes. Airplanes. Stick figures. Sports balls. Ninjago characters. Whatever, really.

Micah can lose himself in a piece of paper and a handful of colors.

It reminds me of my younger years. As a much shorter, chubbier adolescent, I would sit down and write for hours. What did I write? Mostly about sports. That’s what I love. Mississippi State University was my favorite team. So, mostly I wrote about my team beating up on our arch-rival, Ole Miss, with unrelenting mercy.

But I also wrote stuff about basketball and baseball. It didn’t matter, really. I just loved to write. I happened across some of my earliest work a few days ago (growing up, BTW, I was called by my middle name, Matthew), written between the ages of 6 and 7.

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There’s an abundance of focus on living a life that matters. A purpose-filled life. A meaningful life. Making the most of our days. Phrases abound. But, to be honest, I don’t think I know what a purpose-filled life actually means.

Is it living every day with passion? Is it working a 9-5 you love? Is it selling all your stuff and moving overseas? Is it working to build that dream home in that dream location, overlooking the mountains or the ocean?

We’re drawing to the phrases because they connect with something in our inner-most being. We know something about a purpose-filled life is right, even if we don’t know exactly what it is.

What we really desire, I believe, is to live a good story. It’s divine wiring from the hands of our Creator. We all have it.

We want the summation of our days to equal a compelling story, one we would share with others and pass down to our loved ones.

Writing a good story with our lives makes sense to me, and it doesn’t get trapped in many of the generalizations and marketing strategies like the cliched phrases above.

All stories involve three things: character, conflict, and conclusion.

And we know when we see a good one, don’t we? That’s why we love This Is Us and Stranger Things. It’s why some books outlive Father Time (The Bible, Homer’s The Odyssey, Dante’s The Inferno, to name a few). It’s why we’re drawn to certain folks (Jesus, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and many others).

It’s all about the story being told or lived.

What story are you writing with your days? Is it compelling? Would you package it up and share it with others?

Truth is, most of us aren’t living good stories. And the reason? We buy into the enemy’s lies.

I can’t make a difference.

I’m not smart enough.

I’m not old enough.

I’m not young enough.

I don’t have what it takes to fight through the struggle.

I can live a good story without taking risks.

It’s better to watch someone else live a good story than entertain potential failure living my own.

The lies are as numerous as the sand grains in the Sahara and as old as time itself.

Let’s be honest, writing a good story is dang hard. Remarkably easy to comprehend, but difficult to live out.

What’s more, we live in an age with a million and one options to distract us from living a better story, to silence that still small voice.

“Your marriage doesn’t have to fall apart. You can write a better story,” says the Spirit. “No, my relationship is too far gone. He hurt me. The wound is too gaping. I’ll check my Twitter feed instead.”

“You don’t have to continue working a 9-5 that drains your life and energy. You can write a better story,” whispers the Spirit. “No, I can’t leave my job. It pays well. And without my income, we can’t pay the bills. Hey, what time do the 49ers play?” (as if anyone cares)

Can I be honest? I’ve been silencing the Spirit’s voice the last couple of years. The small voice keeps nudging me to write a book. But I continue with the excuses.

“No one will read it. I mean, I can write blog posts, but I’m not talented enough to write a book. And besides, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that unceasingly guzzles energy from what seems like an already depleted tank. If and when I get healthy, I’ll write a book.”

And if I’m also honest, resisting my better story has drained my passion. That’s what happens when we say no to the Spirit’s promptings. When we refuse to take risks and engage the resistance, something in us dies.

This doesn’t happen all-of-a-sudden. But it happens. And we lose the passion, joy, optimism, peace, hope we once had.

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Maybe you haven’t lived a good story in a very long time. That’s okay. The beauty of life is that every day is an invitation to write a better story. You can start today.

But, where? How?

Well, think about your 8-year-old self. What would that self do?

My 8-year-old self would write.

Maybe your story has nothing to do with writing. It probably doesn’t. Maybe it involves something more complex than your 8-year-old self could comprehend (mending a broken relationship, ending an addiction).

So, here’s another question.

Would what you do if you weren’t afraid?

If fear were not a player, what would you do? If the opinions of others couldn’t touch your story, how would you write it? If failure wasn’t a thing, what would you do with your life?

You can’t write a good story without resistance and failure and vulnerability, of course. But you can fight through them. You can make difficult choices. You can endure conflict. Even more, you can transform it. You really can. I know because God wired you to write a good story. And our Creator is a Zen master in the art of turning failure into triumph, pain into joy.

So this week, I started the manuscript I said I would start three years ago. Every day I sit down to write, the little devils pull up chairs as well, flipping their chair around backward, plopping down right behind my ears. I feel their breath. I write. The devils snicker. I write some more. They inch closer and whisper their dirty lies.

You’re not talented enough. You’re not healthy enough. Everyone will think you’re a terrible writer.

I don’t ask them to leave. They can stay right where they are, assuming they do two things: brush their teeth and keep their nasty mittens away from my headphones, which will remain over both ears at all times. I will keep at it, writing something every weekday until it’s done.

When my manuscript is completed, it may well suck. Publishers might read it and laugh. They might not read it all. I don’t know. It matters not, really.

Because when it comes to writing a good story with your life, you don’t control conclusions. That’s God job. The reward for a good story is not the conclusion, anyway. The reward is in the process.

As you write your story, you will become someone you never thought you could be, someone much more loving and joyful and full of life. You will impact people in ways you could never imagine. That will be the reward. And the reward will be enough.

You were created to write a good story with your life. Start today.

Grace and peace, friends.

Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.

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