Updated: Feb 11
Sister Sybil Mack
In reading an article by Ed Chin, I ran across an anecdote that explained why many people consider Ernest Hemingway to be the gold standard for fiction. One of the characteristics of his writing was simple and clear prose. Friends, who knew how much Hemingway despised flowery writing, once challenged him to write a story using only six words. Hemingway accepted the challenge and wrote, “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Those six words should stop you in your tracks. Your mind has just been captured by the power of story.
We all have a story, however, for some of us we wish they belonged to someone else. Some people are simply too horrified by their own life and heritage. They may be totally embarrassed by their family’s culture of racism, alcoholism, gambling, debt, drugs, illicit sex or other transgressions. This is where having Faith in your story fortifies itself in our DNA because your family stories carry the imprint of God’s love.
A story is like a seed. It begins as a small object that is powerful, mysterious, and continuous. When it gets planted and watered into the ground of a human mind, it takes on a life of its own. We live vicariously through the stories we are told by our family members. However, in our retelling of our ancestral stories, it is not surprising that many of us pick up the bad habit of removing ‘truths’ from the stories at our own discretion. When we do this, we are not showing faith in our family narrative. Our story reflects our lives and the decisions that we made, good and bad. Do not paint or window dress the story as this does not erase our actions no matter how much we wished we could erase the text or hit delete on certain lines on the pages.
When respectably told, our story serves as a testimony to others who are listeners. The most effective tool we as Christians have in our toolbelt is our testimony; the story of how the gospel shapes our life. Our story is not only about us; it is worthy of passing on because we can convey and validate God’s faithfulness and goodness in our lives. People can hear our stories and respond not only with “You, too?” but also, “So that’s how you got through. Maybe with God, I can get through, too.”
Our stories were created before the dawn of time. God penned each day of our lives before He spoke the first word that broke light into the darkness. David wrote in Psalm 139, "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote "he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
The stories in the Bible inform our own life stories, so we can find hope to step out in faith in the here and now, trusting a trustworthy God. And our own lives are evolving as stories worth telling — stories that highlight our stumbling and wrongdoings, and our reaching for the Savior to find forgiveness and strength.
Undeniably, we are blessed to see a new year. We can look to it expecting good things or the worst of things. It all depends on how we view the Author of our lives. Generally, we are not the heroes in our stories. As believers, God is the hero. And God is present in our stories even when a story does not say so explicitly, as with the story of Esther, where God’s name is not mentioned but His power is evident throughout.
Thinking through our stories, we can find our place in His story. God is writing an ongoing story in your life and in mine. We do not know what this year’s story will include in its chapters, but as my grandmother use to say, “just keep on living, you will see.” Each of our individual stories reflect the greater story of redemption found in scripture and through Christ. Therefore, we should never embellish our stories for there are lessons to be learned. So, have faith in your story and continue to pass it on intact to future generations.