The Gift of Your Story

Why do I write?  Oftentimes, the motivation behind my writing is that I feel I have a story to tell, a story that’s so important to me that I  feel other people need to read it.  Other times the motivation is much more pedestrian, such the fact that I do want to be a published author and as such I need to develop my craft and produce content worth reading.  Sometimes I do it just because it helps me unwind – it’s relaxing and decompressing and downright fun.  And yes, sometimes it’s because I want people to say, “Hey, that Brandon guy is a good writer!”  The common thread through all these motivations is, of course, me.

“It’s… all… about… me…” Perfect!

Now, I make a point to myself to try and remove myself from the center of the picture. I tell myself that I want to write to the glory of God, but in practical terms, what does that even mean?  How do I glorify him by writing science fiction or fantasy?  Yes, we’ve talked before here about how when I write and people like what I read and they find out I’m a Christian it serves as a witness and all that… It all makes sense, but it raises the question, “To what practical good?”  I mean, if a person likes what I write and likes that I’m a Christian, does it amount to them thinking more of Christ?  “Wow, Jesus really does fit with science fiction! There’s this Christian author and now I’ve seen the light!” Eh, not so much.

However, I ran across this video the other day. Quite frankly, it’s more than a little heartbreaking, and it’s a bit intense at some points.  Nothing gruesome or anything like that, just likely to jerk a few tears from your eyes.  Watch it anyway. Do it!!

You back?  Good.  Like I said, tear-jerkery in the extreme.

This video delivered a thought in a powerful way – Stories can be a crucial form of escape.  For people who are facing traumatic life circumstances, for people who are bearing incredible burdens, for people who are struggling day after day to have the emotional energy to press on, heck, for people who are just plain stressed out – stories are a means to detach, find perspective and gain some relief.

“But wait!” cried the theologian in me (he’s always shouting whenever I have errant thoughts).  “Shouldn’t it be the case,” he says, “that the person suffering under such circumstances finds his perspective and peace in Christ and in the Word, not some silly story?”

“Why yes,” I reply to my dogmatic alter-ego. “You’re absolutely correct about that.  Peace is found in no one else.  Certainly the first place a person in such circumstances should turn is the Word.”

But, I continue to no one in particular (because they told me talking to myself is a sign of insanity), here’s the thing: When we are dealing with difficult circumstances, we turn to God for comfort, peace, and strength, and he promises to give it, but he also promises to do so through means.  First and foremost is the means of his Word.  But along with that he sends us comforting friends who care for and support us, diverting activities to provide an outlet, restful sleep to refresh us.  I believe that for those of us who love stories and the exercise of imagination, he gives us stories as a way to get away from what troubles us for a while, to let our brains find solace in a world where our problems don’t exist, if only so that when we return to our problems we can handle them again.  And like the little girl in the video, we might even feel inspired, and that time spent imagining that we are stronger, braver, better will give us the courage to deal with life all over again.

This brings me back around to why I write, why you write, why anyone writes – could God be using your story as a gift to someone to help them?  Could it be that the story you write is going to be that escape for someone whose world is crashing down around their ears?  See, this would be that practical side of writing to his glory, because in so doing, you are literally serving someone who desperately needs that blessed relief from pain and struggle.  Might your story be a gracious gift from a gracious God to a hurting soul?

Maybe not. Maybe it will never be anything more than your own personal means of escape for a time being, or your own outlet for what is in your heart.  And that too is from God.

7 thoughts on “The Gift of Your Story

  1. Brian Chapell, a homiletics professor at Southern Illinois University talks in some of his books about how illustrations in a sermon aren’t just attention-grabbers or interest-keepers. They don’t just keep people from snoozing off in sermons. They’re actually a huge part of what causes people to understand and personally OWN the point that the preacher is trying to make. Like you, he doesn’t deny or minimize the power of God’s Word. He simply recognizes that there are means by which God’s Word ingrains itself in our hearts.

    If you think about it, this totally makes sense. Mark 4 tells us that Jesus didn’t even teach people *without* using some kind of parable. And what’s a parable? It’s an illustration. A story. If Jesus understood the power of stories, why would we eschew them?

    1. Thanks for the observation, Ken. I hadn’t thought about that perspective that Jesus told stories all the time. Of course, his reason for telling stories was a little different than what I was talking about here – he was making finer points using them. However, it demonstrates the larger point, I guess, that stories have a power of their own, and can be used in service to God and others.

  2. Like anyone, I have the tendency to tarry into that false religion of self. I take the good things God advises for us: self-discipline, self-control, self-familiarity, that sort of thing, and turn it into its own religion.

    God help any of us if we seek God’s Truth in anywhere other than the Word. Fortunately stories are valuable for that also, but only insofar as they point directly back to the Word.

    Not that stories can’t teach us important lessons. I’ve loved Aesop’s Fables ever since childhood. But it’s *because* they often are useful for biblical truths. NOT because they are Truth on their own. They may make me a better man, but only because they happen to touch on the Truth.

    Does that make sense?

    1. Makes sense. I was very cautious in my mind approaching this whole idea, because I know that it can hedge on saying that stories somehow take the place of what God gives us. I guess, thinking more about it, I’d prefer to keep my original point separate – stories can provide a certain amount of escape and relief from the troubles of life, and when combined with a sturdy devotional life, they can be seen as a blessing from God. Thus, as a writer, I can see writing as a means to serve God by serving others. Of course, when I put it that way, it suddenly becomes so much easier to once again turn it to self: “MY stories are a blessing, so I HAVE to write. That’s how good I am…” Aw, sheesh… Sin sucks.

      1. How about this as a possible rephrase:

        Stories can be used to illustrate the truth.

        That way you’re not saying your stories are Truth — by no means! — but they can be useful in illuminating or making an old truth new.

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