As children, we are convinced, naturally, that we’re the centre of life’s story.
We demand attention without rationale or reasoning, and are egocentric by design.
As we grow older, we start to assess and validate the life stories of others. We become more able to celebrate our friends, and the things they contribute to our world.
Perhaps, in a sense, we also start to see ourselves and others as bit players – or extras – in the drama of life, rather than the lead.
Not that we don’t try and play our parts with passion, but as Christians we discover that God is the star of the bigger story.
In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton writes:
“I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a storyteller.”
Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are the main storytellers, but I prefer to believe that God is telling his grand story through us.
And his most important story was told through the life of Jesus.
His story can transform hearts, and give us a different perspective on our own narratives.
Sometimes, however, we become so sidetracked by the demands and desires of life that we lose sight of the possibilities God offers for our future.
Speaker and social justice advocate Andrew Starr says that each of us tends to live out a story of our own choosing.
He lists some possible stories, or narratives, that we might cling to:
1. The experience story.
In popular culture, and across our advertising channels, we are told a narrative which revolves around ‘collecting experiences’. This story is about living for the next thing – whether it’s the next country we visit, or the next amazing meal, or the next relationship. Experience is king, and we will willingly sacrifice for the next “experience trophy” because there’s always a better one just around the corner.
2. The religious story.
Many adhere to a religious story that revolves around karma, or the concept of ‘doing no harm’. It essentially centres around an idea that ‘I am right and they are wrong’, and there’s a tendency to mish-mash a range of ideas under the umbrella of ‘my religion’.
3. The financial security story.
When we believe and live out this story, we live our lives in honour of (and sometimes slavery to) security. This belief keeps us in the driver’s seat of life, and security worshippers tend to take pride in the life they’ve created rather than relying on the provision of God. Fear often drives the financial security narrative.
4. The success story.
When we find our identity in how successful we are, we become addicted to the approval and validation of others. But at what point have we finally ‘made it’? When are we successful enough, or smart enough, or beautiful enough? When are we enough?
5. The family story.
This is a common one. When we allow our kids to become our story, our identity –
our whole world – we set ourselves up for a life that is destined to disappoint us on some level. No matter how amazing our children are, they will never be able to meet all our emotional needs or give us the lasting satisfaction we crave. Clinging to our children can also side-track us from the issues and needs in our marriage – and also make it that much harder to pursue other interests which help us to keep developing our identity into our later years (when our children have left home).
Our dominant story influences how we make our decisions, says Starr. We tell our story through our words and actions. But the trouble is, too many of us are living very small stories that won’t satisfy our hearts.
They fail to provide us with the joy and freedom of wholehearted abandonment to Jesus and his will.
Not that living for Jesus means rejecting amazing experiences, or financial security, or time with our families… but reflecting on our dominant narrative, or story, can shine a light on the default modes which may impact us emotionally and spiritually into the future.
Remember that we are bit players. The star of the show is God.
What story does he want you to live out with him? Is it the story you’ve been living all along, or does the second half of your life require a change of direction, or renewed philosophy?
Why don’t we ask God how to proceed?
Reveal to me the primary story that’s been dominating my life, and show me where I’ve been rejecting you in favour of my own path which seems, at least on the surface, to satisfy.
Show me where I’ve been a slave to my fears or compulsions.
Show me the story you’d like me to live out.
May my priorities and goals for the rest of my life be in line with your perfect will and plan.