What’s your story?
Do you know what makes the difference of a good life story or bad one?
I recently spent a weekend out of town with a dozen people and we told each other our stories.
We focused on five areas that shape the stories we are living. They all start with an “H”, so it’s easy to remember–Heritage, Heroes, High Points, Hardships, Hand of God. (developed by the Watermark church for its ReEngage program)
We thought it would be a simple exercise to get to know each other. But it was so much more. We shared untold secrets. Pain. Victories. Unresolved relationships. New beginnings. Second chances.
It’s taken me a while to let the stories settle in my soul. But now, after reflecting on the process, I want to share with you 3 lessons I learned from our storytelling weekend. If you’re feeling stuck in your story or wondering how to live a better story, these 3 things made a difference in our stories. They can make a difference in yours.
First, I’ll describe the five parts of our stories we shared with each other…
- HERITAGE – This piece of the story is about where we come from. Our heritage is like the first couple of chapters in a book that sets the stage for the rest of the storyline. It’s that time in life when our parents were the primary writers of our story. It’s the backdrop for the rest of our story.
- HIGH POINTS— The high points are when our stories have meaning and there is hope of a good life story. It’s the times in a movie when the upbeat music plays loudly and all seems well.
- HARDSHIPS—These are the tough times, the chapters of life we’d rather skip. It may be troubles in relationships, finances or health. Maybe we’re stuck in unhealthy habits or unhealthy systems. It’s loss. It’s the stormy chapters of conflict and hopelessness.
- HEROES – These are people who were willing to step into our stories and make a difference. Some of our heroes were the people who poured love into our heritage. Others were people who God used to help change the plot of our life stories. Many of our heroes lived an example of a good story and gave us hope for our own good story.
- HAND of GOD—These are the times in our stories when we see the hand of God. It’s the chapters that he authors. It’s when he’s present. Sometimes his hand sent a loving hero into a dark chapter of life. Other times his hand gave forgiveness and a new beginning. His gentle hand showed up in each of our stories, inviting us into his larger story of love.
Those are the five categories that helped us sort through our stories in reflection and later share with others. Putting our stories into words was like gathering scattered sheets and putting them in meaningful sequence.
I learned a lot as I listened to the developing storylines. Most of all, I learned we all have the hope of a good story. Do you want a good story?
Here are 3 things that make the difference of living a good life story…
1. PAY ATTENTION TO WHO WRITES YOUR STORY. Our life story begins at the mercy of others. But eventually we each choose our story. Who is writing your story? The author of your story is the difference of a good story or a bad story. I can only imagine God eagerly waits for us to give him the authorship of our stories.
Unfortunately, we think we write better stories. We believe the false narratives that others portray and try to make it our own narrative, only to end up with a shallow story. Or we give others too much influence in our story. Pay attention to who writes your storyline. It’s the difference of living a good story.
2. LEARN THROUGH THE HARDSHIPS. Somehow we believe our story can’t be a good one if it has hardship. But the difference of a good or bad story isn’t whether we have hardship. It’s what we do in hardship. It’s the difference of facing the pain or numbing it. Persevering or giving up.
Not only did everyone in our group have hardship, but most of us had hidden hardships–secrets tucked in the soul to bear alone. And we feared rejection if others knew the whole story. Sharing the hardship chapters wove them back into our stories. It helped settle the past. And it gave healing in the present by being known, and still loved.
People with good stories are transformed through the tough times. Donald Miller wrote, “You can’t tell a good story without conflict – the story can’t be beautiful or meaningful. We’re taught to run from conflict, and it’s robbing us of some really good stories.”
3. HEROES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE OF GOOD STORIES. If you want to live a good story, seek people with meaningful storylines. Find some heroes. And join them.
If you want to make a difference in others’ stories, be a hero. You don’t have to be a super hero. Ordinary people make an extraordinary difference in someone’s story.
- Start at home. A heritage of love writes the foundation of a good story in another’s life. Raising kids feels so ordinary—and sometimes parents long for extraordinary action. Parenting with love is ordinary work that makes extraordinary stories.
- Invite others into God’s story. Our heroes were people who showed up in our stories and made a difference–a simple invitation, a concerned aunt, a summer camp counselor, a small group leader, a friend in the dorms. We can all make a difference in others’ stories. And it gives our own story meaning when we participate in God’s larger storyline of love.
So what’s your story?
- Reflect on it– your Heritage, High Points, Hardships, Heroes, Hand of God.
- Learn from it
- Share it.
- Listen to someone else’s story.
Paying attention to your storyline challenges you to surrender your story to God. It strengthens you to learn through hardship. And it inspires you to see the impact ordinary people have on a story.
“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.” Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years