At bed time our daughters love hearing stories, and not necessarily those read from a book either. They ask for made up stories by mom and dad, which make things interesting for mom and dad sometimes! After flying by the seat of my pants a few times, recently Jack, the lead pastor of the worship community that I’m a part of, gave a sermon on telling God-stories, and how testimonies of/about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy – there is a declaration of Who God is and what He wants to do in the lives of people. You can listen to it here. It got me thinking, though, of my Story.
A benefit of living by faith, through the spiritual wildernesses, trusting God when life gets tough, and listening for His voice, is that through the slow movements of God in our lives, there are opportunities to see His hand at work. Oftentimes in little ways, but very often in ways that are personal and meaningful. Something that I’ve felt the Lord inviting me to do is to start sharing true stories – stories of my life with God – with our daughters at bed time.
Learning to tell a story
I have to admit – I used to be horrible at telling stories. Maybe because as an introvert I ran out of steam/energy before I was done – or perhaps it just didn’t feel exciting or interesting enough to me. Then, once when I was teaching at an art and music camp on the Navajo reservation, I shared a tent with a storyteller. As the camp would wind down at the end of the day, he would tell me stories of him and his brother growing up on a farm. He shared the antics of growing up with humor and reflection in a way that stirred the imagination, and were often downright funny. As a songwriter at the time, I was sharing the outcome of stories in concerts (my songs), but this started to get me thinking of how I would tell the stories behind the songs in my concerts. I remember a highlight for me was when I saw a promotion for one of my concerts, and it had me billed as: singer/songwriter/storyteller(!). I think seeing that had such a big impact on me because it’s not just the songs I wanted to share with people, but rather the message of the songs (Jesus).
The connecting points of faith
In telling stories, I started to take more time to tell not only what happened, but what I was feeling. Whether a funny story, a story of risk, or both, I started to realize the connecting points that faith has. The innate hope and longings that we all have, I believe, come alive when we talk about our journey of faith and share it with others. Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen,” and I’ve learned that as I shared my stories of faith, it often resonates with people. Why? Because I’m not a superhero. I’m a mountain boy with a gap in his teeth, who has walked enough miles barefoot to need shoes now. I usually tend toward being unpretentious and often understated (which maybe is why telling stories has had to become a discipline to develop). But very often my stories are just me hoping a whole lot, and finally, often in the 11th hour, God coming through. I found that as I shared how God has come through in my life, it has increased faith and hope in others. What a humbling thing we get to be a part of! The story of your life has the ability to greatly impact others.
Tips to telling your God-story
- RISK. John Wimber is noted as saying, “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.” If you want to have a story to tell, I encourage you to risk. Take a chance. Step out in faith. I want my life to be infused with faith-filled stories of God’s faithfulness. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind.
- Don’t make things up. Don’t make things up: just learn to communicate the details of what really happened more effectively. What were you feeling? Maybe the thing that you’ve learned (or are learning) is that the thing you originally hoped for is different than what God is showing or teaching you. What are the plot twists?
- Don’t make yourself the hero. In living a life of faith, we are never the heroes – Jesus is. Spend time thinking about that, asking: “How is Jesus the hero of my story today?”
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and the silly ironies of life. We all need to lighten up.
- Don’t self-deprecate. There’s a big difference between laughing at life, and being self-deprecating. I’ve heard many people speak who are (overly) self-deprecating. It get’s tiring, because being self-deprecating is dishonest and a way of making things all about you. Self-deprecation is not humility – it’s actually the opposite.
- Be utterly fascinated by Jesus. If you are not the hero, and Jesus is, then get to know Him. Know His voice. What is He saying? How do situations bear His handiwork and finger-prints. How are you longing for Him today? Read the Gospels: what captivates you about Him?
Share your story
It’s been so meaningful to share my journey with my girls. They’ve heard about God speaking to me, and coming through to save the day when I was really scared. Those are the kinds of stories that I want them to grow up hearing. I want to encourage you to practice the discipline of telling your story: to a friend, a family member, a mentor, a spiritual director, or even a stranger.
To leave you with one of my personal stories, here is a clip from one of my concerts: