It seems like the word story is everywhere lately. There are conferences, books, articles, and websites devoted to the art and act of storytelling, and it’s nowhere more pronounced than in Christian evangelical culture. You can learn how to tell your story, how to live a better story, how to preach God’s story, and how to share the stories of others. Even the pastor of my church constantly refers to “your story” and “God’s story” in his sermons. It’s truly everywhere.
But what does this mean? When we talk about “our story,” or “God’s story,” what are we referring to? I think the lines can get blurred, and it can be easy to misunderstand given how often and widely these terms are used.
In my book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, I define story as the vulnerable sharing of your life experiences with others. It’s everything that you’ve been through in your life, but more importantly, in a Christian context, I think it also refers to the ways in which God has worked in and through those experiences.
I was raised in the South by non-believing parents (non-believing is a nice way to put it; they are somewhat hostile toward organized religion). Living where we did, one of the first questions you were asked when you moved to town was, “Oh, what church do you go to?” It was always awkward to answer. All of my friends went to church and youth group, they carried their Bibles in their backpacks, wore the Jesus fish around their necks and WWJD bracelets on their wrists. I was the outsider in a lot of ways throughout school, but it was the worst on issues of faith. This narrative of being an outsider, of being left out, was and still is my story. It’s a thread that weaves its way throughout the course of my life.
And, as a member of the Millennial generation, I believe it’s a common thread in many of our stories. A huge number of us grew up feeling like we didn’t belong, that we weren’t worthy to be included, and this thread continues to weave through individuals today.
Some of us are too conservative for our more liberal friends. Or maybe we’re too liberal for our conservative friends. Our theological views fall outside of the church community we grew up in. We lost our virginity at a young age. We’re gay or transgendered. We’re divorced. We married young. We’re still single.