Have you ever read a book to a small child as you are getting ready to put him or her into the bed for the night?
It’s a basic story with a beginning, a middle and an end. You’ve read it a thousand times and, at this point, you don’t even need to read the words. You know those words by heart. And, honestly, so does the child.
Yet, that’s the story the child picked. It’s the same story that you’ve read for two weeks straight.
Nothing in the story changes. The outcome is always the same. The characters are still the same characters.
And when you get to the end of reading it, you hear something along these lines: “One more time!” or “Do it again!”
Even from a young age, we love stories. We love to hear stories. We love to watch people read them or tell them.
We still love them when we grow up. Sometimes, we even love to change the story over time. The fish always gets bigger. The win becomes even more improbable. The surroundings become even more scary.
We love stories because they entertain us and connect us. We love stories because our story is our way of sharing who we are with others. Those stories connect us and bring us together.
Simply put, everyone has a story to share.
Every story, yours included, has a beginning, a present and a future. Every story, yours included, has moments of triumph and moments of tragedy. Every story, yours included, has highs and lows, challenges and opportunities, friends and foes.
Every story, yours included, is a story worth telling.
In various careers in my life — journalism, academics, ministry and writing — I’ve had the chance to listen to a lot of people talk about the story of their lives. Many of those stories I encountered began with a statement along these lines (and admittedly, I’ve said this about my own): My story isn’t very interesting. Why would anyone care to hear it?
But the truth is that you and I have stories. In fact our stories are filled with the elements that make up an exceptional story. I came across this list of seven elements of good storytelling and I thought I’d share these with you so that you and I can understand that we do, indeed, have a life story.
- Every story has a central premise: There is a theme to your life story. Maybe it’s that “good overcomes evil” or that “family matters.” But the individual pieces of the puzzle of your life story will point to a theme if you are willing to find it. If you could describe your life story in a single statement, what would it be? If you can answer that question, you are well on your way to knowing your central premise.
- Every story has characters who change over time. In your life story, you have changed. That goes without saying, right? Your beliefs have changed, your assumptions have changed. You’ve learned to adapt and to grow over time. In your story, the changes that have occurred in you have also brought changes to others around you. When you compare your life to 10 years ago, 5 years ago, a year ago, etc., what has changed?
- Every story has a crucible. A crucible is a place in your story where the heat turns up and where it brings a change in you or a chance in the way you see the world. Life stories can be defined by many crucibles over time. It’s what happened to you in the early years, the school years, the college years, the work years, the family years, the challenges you faced in the short term and long term. Where has life turned up the heat on you and how has it changed you? Those are your crucible moments.
- Every story has a protagonist who is on some sort of quest. The protagonist is the character that carries the story — the central character. You are the protagonist of your own story and the quest for you is the life that you live. Some might say that the protagonist is the “hero” of the story, but in the future, we’ll look at how there is a bigger hero in our stories.
- Every story has an antagonist of some sort bent on stopping the central character. Along the way, you encounter something that or someone who stands in the way of you completing your life mission. Maybe it was someone who said, “You’ll never make it,” and you decided to prove them wrong. Maybe it was the medical diagnosis, the family challenge, the work challenge. Maybe your story has a nemesis. Somewhere in your story, you’ve had to overcome the odds.
- Every story includes conflict. Maybe, at the heart of it, we’d like to avoid conflict and drama in our life story, but it is there. It is the conflict and our ultimate response to it that lead us to the changes in our stories. The conflict in our life story gives us an opportunity to say or do something important. When we share that story with others, they can hear our life lessons in response to the conflict that we endured and overcame.
This isn’t a new concept. Life stories show up in so many ways in Scripture. They are a huge part of what Jesus shares in the Gospel and those stories show up in interesting ways.
Take for instance, this encounter from Matthew 9:27-31 (ESV):
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them,“See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Do you see those elements there?
It’s two guys who have been blind and they hear about Jesus and start chasing after him. They see a possible chance to be healed? The heat is turned up in their life crucible and Jesus becomes an agent of change in their life stories.
On the basis of their belief, they are healed. And, despite, Jesus’ warning not to tell anyone, these two hit the street and start sharing their story of what has happened. And, in the end, more people learn about Jesus and who he is.
Two men. A lifetime of living without the ability to see. Two men who had told the same story over and over again. Then, everything changes in an encounter with Jesus. A new life story begins and it is one they can’t keep to themselves. They see their stories as ones that are worth sharing.
Do you see your story that way? Have you had your eyes opened to something in you? Have you experienced change, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, etc.?
Yes, you have a life story. We all do.
And, yes, your life story is one that is worth sharing with others. Your life story is unique in many ways and, yet, when you tell that story, you will find that it connects with the stories of others.
How could you share your story today? How could your story make a difference in the life of someone else?
Who might hear your story and ask you to simply, “Tell it one more time!”
ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it. You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.