Sometimes we might wonder if our story is worth telling. We may have lived an uneventful life that doesn’t seem to have impacted anyone. We may have grown up in a Christian home, attended church every Sunday and came to faith without any fanfare. Yet everyone’s story is unique and worth telling.
Eulogies are an important part of a funeral because friends and younger members of the family will hear a summary of a person’s life. Where they lived, grew up, the influences in their lives, the people they loved and the activities they enjoyed. When we put these things together they make a unique story.
We may mistakenly think that our stories are about us and therefore don't matter. But our stories are not about us. Our stories are part of something bigger that God is doing in our world. He takes our individual lives and weaves them into neighbourhoods. He weaves neighbourhoods into communities, communities into societies and societies into nations.
Our stories are about what God is doing in our world. He begins with lots of apparently ordinary lives and tells a much bigger story. When any of us tell our story, we tell the story of who God is. The story of God is always worth telling.
Here are some more reasons why your life’s story is important.
Our lives are part of the social history of a particular time and place in the world. No one has lived in exactly our circumstances, even members of our own family had a different birth order to us and this has influenced their lives. We have all spent time with a different group of friends and these friendships have influenced us in healthy or unhealthy ways.
How we lived our lives, make choices and how circumstances impact us, can be instructive for future generations. ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,’ declared Winston Churchill to the House of Commons in 1948 (rephrasing the words of others).
Our lives serve as examples and role models to others, whether we want them to or not. Our lives reveal both the benefits and pitfalls of the decisions we have made. It’s important to learn from the mistakes of others, as well as our own since we haven’t time to make every mistake.
People’s stories can serve as cautionary tales when they alert us to how insidious people can move into our lives and gain our trust. This was painfully obvious when the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse uncovered years of abuse perpetrated by people who had gained the trust of organisational leaders.
Generally, we consider ourselves to be a good judge of character, yet we aren’t as discerning as we think and often miss the clues that suggest a person is hiding something. It’s not uncommon to hear news reports of people committing atrocities and their neighbours being surprised by their behaviour as they didn’t think they were capable of such actions. Their stories teach us to be more discerning.
All of us have been through difficulties in our lives, whether major or minor and survived. Our stories help others when they go through similar difficulties. Even minor inconveniences can become major problems if we don’t handle them well.
Some problems are almost universal, such as parenting and ageing. Listening and learning from others helps us to manage different life stages well. They encourage us and build our resilience.
Other people’s stories teach us empathy and tolerance. When we understand someone’s life circumstances, we often realise why they act the way they do. It doesn’t mean we agree with their actions but rather their experiences increase our knowledge and tolerance.
Some believe God created the human species and let it run its course. However, the Bible teaches us that God created individuals with specific destinies.
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you’ (Jeremiah chapter 1 verse 5) and ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Psalm chapter 139 verse 13).
We are unique human beings, placed on earth at a particular time and place. No one is a mistake or an accident. Our stories matter because we are his unrepeatable creation and special to him.
Susan Barnes has been involved in pastoral ministry for over twenty years with her husband, Ross. They are now semi-retired and enjoy supporting a number of churches in north-east Victoria. You can find more of Susan’s articles at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/susan-barnes.html