The Power of Story

February 24th, 2011

I have had many moments where God has used someone on a stage to speak right at me, (you know like they were stalking me under my bed). I remember hearing Donald Miller at NYWC sharing about the power of story, and instantly my heart beat faster, my eyes opened wider and my soul seemed to respond to the awesome thought that each life is significant- we each are the center of a story and destiny that God has been writing for us (whether in pencil or pen depending on your theological dispositions).

My wife has her degree in interpersonal and organizational communication, while we were dating we talked about one theory within the discipline of communication called “narrative paradigm” by Walter Fisher- which boiled down he theorized that all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling. We experience and comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives (stories), each with their own plot, Fisher argues that “the way in which people explain and/or justify their behavior, whether past or future, has more to do with telling a credible story than it does with producing evidence or constructing.”

I see a direct correlation with the power of story-narrative and students coming to know the freedom and power of a life with Jesus. Our stories, our twits, our facebook, our grocery store shopping in some way should communicate the epic adventure that comes from a relationship with Jesus. 

I remember a young girl sitting in my office (with another female staff member present) talking about the pressure her mom put on her to get “implants”. We sat shocked- I mean this was frightening. She kept asking why she wasn't good enough to be loved and accepted by her mom. I remember leaving that meeting feeling the frustration- why she didn't see God's story so much bigger than the one other people wanted to write for her. 

Yesterday I sat and looked in the mirror. I mean none of us look pretty when we first get out of bed (except for my wife 😉 ) so this was not a good time to ask- “why am I not good enough?”. I realized that I was just like the 14 year-old girl in my youth group. I was allowing the 2+ years of hard ministry transitions, the hurt, the discouragement the frustration, and the critics, write my story for me.

You may be a volunteer youth worker and after a day of 9 to 5, give your life to students, your spouse sees you less, your kids miss you, but you give so students may live and know the story God has for them that is bigger and beyond comprehension. You may not think what you do has any impact- but it is the story you live that will ring in the minds of your students after you are gone. Most students don't remember my messages I spent hours preparing, they cherish the burrito-sessions (that I nearly missed because I forgot to put it on my calendar), they value the small group talks and laughs, they love seeing you in the stands at their recitals, games, and presentations. They will remember your story when your gone. They will want to repeat it, and that is why they will share that story through their life to other students when we are gone.

This is the legacy of Jesus, the powerful stories we leave behind will define us more than our intential acts of attention or success. When I stop trying to be successfull by accomplishing MY GOALS and start chasing significance- accomplishing the right goals, I know God's hand is on the pen (or pencil).

So look at this time as a chapter in the epic story of the local youth-worker, where staff meetings consist of passive accusations of students spilling punch in the kitchen, or not replacing the paper in the church copier, or decorating your senior pastors office with tiny pink paper that will still be on his shelves YEARS after he fired you.  All of these are lines and parts in an epic story of you seeking to love students into the kingdom, doing anything short of sinning or getting arrested to show students a story God has inspired you to live. So lead them into their story, train them to see their school as their mission field, show them the world God created, and provoke them to find a need and fill it. This is the legacy we will leave when we are gone, this is the power of the human story.

Now stop looking in the mirror.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.