Can you tell your life story in thirty seconds to a minute? Probably not. And you probably can’t because you have most likely never thought about your life as a story. You’ve read books. You’ve watched movies. You’ve heard TED Talks or other lectures where the speaker tells you their story.
But most likely you’ve never really focused on yours. And so, when you meet someone at a party or sit next to someone on an airplane and they ask you about yourself, you go to your “go-to” and tell them: your name, whether you’re married or single, where you work, and whether or not you have a dog because if you have a cat you know you’d be more socially acceptable if you just keep that to yourself.
Most of what you share is just some random facts about yourself. Kind of a check-list of the things we think people want to hear when they ask us about ourselves. If you listen to yourself you might find yourself, well, let’s admit it—kind of boring. Nothing like one of those compelling books you read or movies you watched or TED Talk person’s life story you listened to. If they had merely listed some random facts, you would have tossed the book or quit watching or walked out of the lecture.
But what if you and I were on an airplane and somehow our seat selection was not very exact and even though we were traveling together we wound up in the aisle seat and the window seat. Sure enough, some guy comes to our row and gets to sit right between us. He’s very courteous, wants to make sure each of us has plenty of elbow room, and does his best not to step on our toes. He sits down and we ask him about himself and he says: “Well, in a nutshell, I’ve known that I had the ability or power to solve the main problem of this world for some time now. I know where I came from and I know exactly where I’m going. I organize everything I do around this understanding. Want to hear more?”
You and I would be leaning in. Maybe we’d be scratching our heads a bit. We’d certainly want to hear more of this story from someone who seemed to have their life in order. So we ask for more.
Next he tells us: “By the time I’m 33 years old I will have accomplished everything I set out to do.” We give each other knowing looks that say “I can’t even accomplish one day’s worth of ‘to-do’s’ ever. How can he be so certain of this?”
So we ask, “Do you have some sort of mission statement or vision for your life?” Without hesitating he responds, “Sure. Every day I look for ways I can serve other people. I’m not here to have people wait on me. That’s how I find fulfillment in life.”
For the next hour and a half, we hear story after story of how this has played out in his life. We hear how he came from a backwater town, learned a trade from his father, but then left it to start a movement. He goes on to tell how he gathered a small staff of twelve men. As he described these men we wonder why he chose the ones he did. They had no real qualifications. They bickered like brothers. They made big mistakes.
He talks about the opposition he faced and how he wanted his company to know how to handle conflict, how it was going to come and through it things would be learned about people and more importantly about themselves.
We ask more and more questions until the pilot tells us to prepare for landing. We do. And we exit the airplane. The life story we just heard was one we wished we had. Alive. Exciting. Engaging. Purposeful. Our new friend walks off in a different direction and for a moment we pause and want to drop our plans and follow him to find out more.
By now you know the story, don’t you? Jesus lived the greatest story ever. His life was captivating, even to people who do not believe as I do that he was the son of God who came to show us what God is like. His life was meant to show us what life is like so that we could emulate him and live better lives.
If that’s the kind of life for which you wish, then the first thing you need to do is believe you can write a better life story. (And the second thing you need to do is watch for next week’s post on how to do just that.)
Question: Do you believe that starting today you can write a better life story? Why?