One of the biggest moneymakers in our society today is the industry of story. Films, television, books, podcasts — we fill our eyes and ears with content almost every minute of the day. Advertisers have long since tapped into the power of story to sell more products. Politicians know their campaigns have to weave into the story of the American dream.

But our emotions and dreams aren’t levers to be pulled at whim. Story is a sacred tool that shapes and nurtures our imagination. And our imagination is the key to our hearts.

We All Want a Good Story

Stories appeal to us because they’re often neater, tidier, and more logical than our daily lives. They focus on the big events of life and string together epic moments into one, cohesive, and condensed presentation of life. Compared to the long draughts of monotony, or tension, or trouble in our lives, characters in stories enjoy entrance, rising action, climax, resolution at a swift pace of 58 minutes per episode.

Stories are the rich fuel for our belief systems. When we need hope, motivation, inspiration, or peace, we reach out for story. We might think we’re just tuning out to a Netflix show, but really, we’re tuning into something that calls out from much deeper within.

Stories are what inform our daily decisions, even if they seem far removed from our reality. They’re how we shape our worldview in our early years because stories tell us what the world is really like below the surface and who we could be as important characters in the narrative.

Be it a medieval epic or a futuristic flick, stories matter because they hold the promise of something more than what our “real life” has to offer. Whether it’s to be loved or respected, safe or challenged, stories provide an alternative reality that continues to hum along in our hearts even when the final credits roll.

We feel a sense of relief whenever we fall into a good story. Because after a long day, we long to feel like there is someone else in control — someone else is driving the narrative and has something meaningful to reveal to us at the end of the road. The storyteller has something to say about the why behind the characters and their world. And that is the answer that we are each searching for in our own lives.

Studying the Stories of Our Lives

Our desire for story is really a longing for meaning. We want to know why God put us here. Why we are special. Why we matter to the bigger narrative. And the answer to that question resides in the mind of the Author.

He gives hints in His own Book, but the story continues to this day. We have to perform a kind of literary analysis on our lives to start gathering clues.

What were the intentions of the Author? What can you infer from the way the stage has been set for your life? The mind of the Author is unknowable in some ways, but in many, He gives us hints and clues that start to tell a very specific kind of story. Look at the big themes of your life and how they have been changing your heart. What has been the progression of change in your character so far?

What scenarios am I being placed in? The challenges that arise for you have been specifically placed there for a reason. We might have a roving sense of restlessness for other adventures that seem more dramatic, more interesting, more romantic than our own. But you have to remember this: You’re not missing out on your story. It’s happening right now and only you are being called to fully own your adventure.

How can I be an agent of good in this story? Being a good person these days can seem like a complicated task. There are unintended consequences and unseen nuances that make it seem like no good deed goes unpunished. And the toil of self-sacrifice, hours spent working with perhaps little progress, can discourage us to the point of giving up. But a true hero has a long and wide view of the world. They see how the little moments add up to greater good. How having the humility to reach across battling egos and dividing lines brings unity at the end of the story. You have to believe in the happy ending that God is working in the world in order to do your part in making it happen.

It’s only with careful study and continued reading, of our own stories and the Greatest Story, that we can begin to unearth the patterns and constant truths of what our lives mean. It’s only by remaining in persistent conversation with the Author and His other characters that we can fulfill our own destiny in His story.

The Search for Why

Whether we’re aware of it or not, God is the cowriter of our lives. He is the omniscient narrator; we are the willful characters. He knows what is to come, but He asks us to speak and act. He knows that in order for the story to have any meaning, the characters have to live in full color. Otherwise, the story would be flat, a monotone of dictatorial description.

He wants us to enter into His story wholeheartedly. He wants to capture our imagination and believe in the story that He is telling about humanity. For the U.S., He starts every day with a fiery sunrise over the lighthouses of eastern Maine and concludes with a glittering sunset over the icy tundra of Alaska. And every moment in between holds billions of stories, encounters, dramas, opportunities, beginnings, and endings. Opportunities to love and create, to discover and heal, to be in the beauty of here and now and to be in the eternal glory.

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