Great excerpt by Scotty Smith from his book Reign of Grace (p288)
“WHERE ARE YOU IN YOUR STORY? Some of us are alive to neither our story nor God’s Story. With no story to give bearings or boundaries, life is simply a series of unrelated events, moments, people, and experiences. We are in constant need of redefining ourselves and finding new gods to “bless us” and to deliver us from “curses.”
Some of us are alive only to our story. We are committed to personal growth, but within the confining orbit of our own narrative. Life goes well as long as our narrative doesn’t experience planetary collision with some other person vying for the same air space.
Some are alive only to God’s story. We love the promise, beauty, and music of God’s story, but we cannot locate ourselves in his narrative. We love to worship more than we love God. We are more comfortable using “god speak” than engaging in normal conversation with the people in our world.
Others are alive to both stories, but don’t connect the two. We live a dualistic life— in two minds and in two worlds: one sacred and one secular. Whichever identity serves the moment wins the day. We are chameleons on Scotch-plaid, cultural schizophrenics— engaging but confused, confident but ambivalent.
Finally, some of us are alive to both stories, and experience them synergistically. This is where the gospel takes us. In this state, we bring the reign of grace to bear wherever God places us— in relationships and in the culture. We are nostalgic for Eden, engaged in the present, and homesick for heaven. We make people thirsty to know Jesus. May God increase this tribe!
Coming alive in my story and God’s story. 5 things: Gather, Dialogue, Reflect, Integrate, and Share.
- Gather Data
Gather all the information you can about your family of origin and compile as complete a history as possible of every season of your life— from infancy until today, from the mundane to the great pains. Become a genealogical newshound. Look for photographs, letters, diaries— anything you can find that contains information about your life and times.
Commit to learn as much about God’s Story as you possibly can. That Story is faithfully recorded for us in the Bible. Seek to become familiar with the contents of all the books of the Bible. Get to know each book and author as they emerge in the context of the overall story God is developing in history. Begin the discipline of reading the Bible all the way through, over and over.
Talk with significant people from your past and present. Interview those who can tell stories and who are willing to interact with you about your family system, their memories of you, descriptions of your community, the times of crises, transition, and joy. Be bold in your pursuit and attentive as a listener. Expand the conversation to include peers, neighbors, teachers, coaches, extended family, etc.
Like any other story, God’s Story comes alive through rich conversation. Get to know the people in your community who love the Bible and are vitally involved in the fabric of its story Learn from them. Learn with them. There are no dumb questions! But the most important dialogue we can develop is with God himself, and the most vital and powerful context for this dialogue is worship. Every time we gather to worship as the people of God, we are called into a dynamic conversation, not a one-sided monologue. God graciously speaks to us in Word and sacrament, and we respond in confession, faith, adoration, and obedience. Remember, worship is a covenantal conversation— a doxological dialogue between the Creator-Redeemer and his people. Learn to prepare yourself for worship as one coming to give Jesus everything you have and are— as a beloved Bride looking forward to a special time of intimacy with her passionate and present Bridegroom.
Make time for rumination and meditation. Journal as many of your feelings and thoughts as you can. As you reflect upon the information you are gaining, ask yourself these questions: For what and whom are you profoundly grateful? What makes you sad or angry as you remember certain people and places? What are you learning about your heart, longings, fears, and foolishness? How does God fit into your world and story, if at all? How do you wrongfully medicate your pain, instead of dealing with it constructively? What new questions are emerging? Be ruthless and honest and not in a hurry.
There is no way we will be able to come alive and stay alive to God’s story if we do not learn how to reflect upon the glory, beauty, and graceof Jesus. The more we learn about the story of redemption, the more we will begin to see ourselves as a part of the sacred romance— the great love affair between Jesus, the loving Bridegroom, and ourselves, his ill-deserving but beloved Bride. The truth and grace of Jesus are to penetrate into our hearts, deeper and deeper. There is no substitute for significant and focused times of communing with the Lover of our souls.
This is where you begin to connect the past, the present, and the future. To come alive to your story is to participate in an ongoing journey. You aren’t writing a research paper, a third-person novel, or a litany of excuses for why you are such a mess! You’re learning how to live. How will you integrate what you are learning and feeling into this present season of life? What will it cost you to grow? When and where will you get help for your wounded heart? Who can help you sort out the God issues?
It’s at this junction that our participation in God’s Story either heads in the direction of passion or pastime. Will the drama of his Story invade the rhythms our daily life? Will the knowledge of having Jesus as our loving Bridegroom find us living as his faithful, impassioned, submissive Bride? Or will we choose to keep our knowledge of God’s story as devotional bookends to an otherwise self-contained life or as inspirational material for good, conservative morality?
- Share in Community
For this process to become more than a dusty monologue or self-centered soliloquy, you must be part of meaningful community. Who are the people in your life with whom you can share what you are learning about yourself and your life context? From whom are you willing to receive honest feedback and loving accountability? To whom are you committed to share the same costly involvement?
Becoming a committed member and servant-participant in the church, in a local expression of the body of Christ, is vital to coming alive and staying alive to God’s Story. It is “together with all the saints,” as Paul has said, that we come to know “the height, width, breadth, and length of the love of Christ.”