I love stories. Stories have the power to capture our hearts and give voice to our feelings. They help us understand our own lives. Who doesn’t love a good story?
God weaves his story into ours. Or more accurately, our stories are woven into God’s. God leaves his fingerprint on the lives of followers of Jesus. He entwines our lives with his grace, hope, redemption. And we have a story to tell. A Samaritan woman had a story after meeting Jesus. So too, Nicodemus after a late night encounter with him. Paul did while travelling. And a woman I met on a train had a story about encountering God. You have a story too. But have you found it? I asked followers of Jesus how they help people identify how God interweaves his story and yours together.
Here what they said…
How would you help followers of Jesus see how God has woven the themes of grace, hope, restoration, etc. into their story? And what empowers people to share their stories?
The way to see how God’s story and your story interweave is prayerfully to read the four Gospels, allowing yourself to ‘become’ a character in the crowd as Jesus teaches, heals etc., and then coming forward to speak to him yourself. Then go back into the main narrative and allow its flow to wash over the flow of your own life; and so on, to and fro. It helps as well to have the Psalms flowing daily through your spiritual bloodstream, too.
All people are different, with very different God-given personalities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for how different people share their stories, or under what circumstances. The only rule is to pray, to love people, and to seek the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.
How would you help followers of Jesus see how God has woven the themes of grace, hope, restoration, etc. into their story?
1. The ministry of spiritual direction is a wonderful gift in the body of Christ. We all have blinders about how the Lord has cared for us in the past and how he is revealing himself to us in the present. Having someone alongside to help us notice and name the presence of God, to help us listen prayerfully to the Word, and to encourage our deepening friendship with Jesus is such a blessing. Being attentive to the movement of the Spirit in our lives takes practice, and it’s best done in community.
2. What empowers people to share their stories?
In order to share stories of grace, hope, and restoration, we also need to share the stories of our failures, sorrows, regrets, and sin–to speak honestly about the places where Jesus has met us with grace and mercy and compassion and healing and forgiveness. But we won’t share those stories if we think we’ll be met with condemnation, judgment, rejection, gossip, or shame. What we need is grace-filled community, the kind of community that is committed to faithful stewardship of the stories our souls long to tell. When we embody Jesus’ grace and mercy to one another, we’re freed to speak what’s true without fear. That’s a brave and beautiful thing.
Sharon Garlough Brown is a spiritual director and co-founder of Abiding Way Ministries which offers spiritual formation retreats and resources. She has served in pastoral positions in England, Scotland and the USA. Sharon is the author of the Sensible Shoes series.
‘We need grace-filled community committed to faithful stewardship of the stories of our souls’ Sharon Garlough Brown
More often than not, I think the Lord works through the people he sends to cross our path. So I regularly suggest looking back over our Christian life and identifying those individuals who had the biggest impact on us. Then ask what it was about them that most reflected Christ’s character, that drew others towards them and to imitate them. Put these characteristics together and it is almost certainly that we will see God’s kindness to us in a concentrated form. That is why Paul in Philippians makes such a big deal of the chain of imitation and choosing one’s models carefully (eg Christ ➾ Paul ➾ Timothy and Epaphroditus ➾ the Philippian believers ➾ future readers of the letter).”
Mark Meynell, Europe Associate Director for Langham Preaching, author of 8 books including recently released What Angels Long to Read and host of audio documentary Why we Love Men in Capes. Mark’s blog is found at www.markmeynell.net.
First I would say one needs to share their stories to be able to make any sense of it. Just keeping it to yourself makes it confusing and festered. An untold story never heals. So take a chance with a very safe person and share your story. Only then can you begin to see it from the outside, from another person’s perspective. They’ll give you insight into the grace you’ve experienced in a way you won’t be able to (because you’re too close to it). A safe place or community is the best empowering. When you feel safe, you have more joy and ease in sharing your story, knowing that your community is FOR you, not against you.
Mary DeMuth is an international speaker and podcaster, and she’s the author of over thirty books, including the latest: Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy (Baker 2016). She loves to help people re-story their lives. She lives in Texas with her husband of 25 years and is the mom to three adult children. Find out more at marydemuth.com.
Reading over and considering Paul in Acts 26 before Agrippa can be very helpful here. In Acts 13 Paul is speaking to Jews and Gentile believers in a synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, he reminds them of their common book, common story and common values. When Paul is in the Areopagus in Athens, Acts 17, he looks for common ground in their poets and writers.
Interestingly in Acts 26 before Agrippa, Festus and Bernice Paul tells his story. He uses, a personal pronoun more than 40 times. He is telling the story of God’s influence of grace and restoration in his life. Even so when Paul describes what he is about to do, he refers to this as giving a “defense” v3 or in other words an apology for his faith. Then later in v 24-25 when Festus accuses Paul of being mad due to his belief in a resurrected Christ, Paul responses that what he is saying is “true and reasonable”.
When Paul tells his story, he describes the power and influence of God across his life and yet the story is not about him but rather pointing to the power to God. Our lives and choice to follow Jesus may not be as dramatic but the model of Paul’s explanation is very instructive for every Christian in how we see God at work and how we talk about God’s influence.
When we tell our stories today, it usually ends up being all about us, we become the central figure in the drama. Paul gives us a model where it’s his story but it’s not all about him, but rather seeing and pointing to the power, grace and restoration he has experienced in Jesus.
Karl Faase, is the CEO Olive Tree Media. He is widely recognised as an Australian communicator, speaker and social commentator with programs broadcast in Australia USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand. Karl is the host of the Towards Belief and Jesus the Game Changer documentaries.