Why Our Stories Matter

Have you ever noticed that most of the Bible is comprised of stories? These stories tend to come in two flavors: God giving impossibly weak people the ability to do impossibly big things, and deeply sinful people being forgiven by God’s amazing grace.  These are not fables concocted from men’s imaginations to make a good point; they are historical accounts of real people, in real need, and the real God who saved them.

We see both kinds of stories being told about David. Early in the story of David’s life we are introduced to him as a young man who impossibly planted a rock in the forehead of a giant. This is the kind of story that we would expect to be recorded for history to enjoy. This was a notable moment of faithfulness by a boy who trusted God for victory.  But later in David’s story we encounter a moment of a very different kind; one that seems far less suited for children’s ears, and awkward to portray on a felt board in Sunday school.

In both Psalm 32 and 51 David gives us an incredible example of what it looks like to share the stories of our lives, even the embarrassing falls we experience. In these two psalms he recounts the biggest moral failure of his life: his lust, adultery, backstabbing treachery, murder, and deceit committed against a friend and loyal supporter. I realized recently that  David did something really incredible in these two psalms. He wrote them as songs to be sung by the entire congregation of Israel! And they were placed in the Bible to be read, sung and meditated on by future generations, ensuring that his failure would never be forgotten. Most of us would want to bury this sin where it could never be found but David wrote some songs and handed them to the choir director for worship!  Why would David be inspired to do this?

There are at least three reasons why I believe he did this and why we need to follow in his footsteps:

Reason One: David wanted God to be glorified, and if he needed to expose his sin to do so, so be it. Our weakness points to God’s strength and our sin points to God’s mercy. God gets the glory when those He has rescued tell others about how He rescued us.  Whether we are sharing our highs or our lows, our story gives us opportunity to praise God’s faithfulness. We often hesitate to share the darker parts of our story with others because we fear what they will think of us. We wonder how our boys will ever respect us if they hear of our failures.  We must learn to desire that much be made of God  even when it means making much less of ourselves.  We must tell our stories with the aim of bringing glory to God like David did.

Reason Two: We often feel alone in our struggle, and sharing our stories is a powerful way to tear down the lie that no one else can understand what we are experiencing. In his letter to the Corinthian Christians the Apostle Paul comforts this struggling congregation of new Christians with these words, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Corinthians 10:13. I have seen the relief in the face of countless young men when they finally realized they were not alone in their struggles. It is a life changing comfort to know that whatever temptation we are experiencing has been shared by the other Christians who sit next to us in worship. We can draw comfort from the reality that we are not alone and we can draw hope from the fact that God can and will provide rescue for us as he has done for others who have born our same burden.

Reason Three: Sharing our stories, warts and all, helps us to learn humility. Our hearts are fountains of pride and we must learn to dry up the source of that fountain. Pride flourishes when we work hard to manicure a perfect looking exterior. But when we begin to tear down the facade to reveal the truth, our pride begins to fall away with the debris. Pride cannot survive the disinfecting power of light. If we desire to see God work in us, and if as parents we desire to see God work through us into the lives of our children, we must remember that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5).  We must cultivate a heart of humility in order to be used by God in the lives of our children. We must set the example of humility for our children. Telling our stories, with all the contrasts of light and dark, sows those vital seeds of humility in our hearts and in theirs.

We must learn to share our stories, but there are some cautions in doing so:

Caution One: The Goal is to glorify God not to glorify our sin. We share the realities of our own weakness so that God’s provision for us can be magnified, not so we can place a magnifying glass on the ugly details of our sin. We share enough so that our children, at an age appropriate level, can understand what we have been saved from, but not enough to inflame their own sinful imaginations.

Caution Two: Sharing requires discernment. Not everyone is appropriate to share with. Not everything is appropriate to share. There are people with whom it is not safe to share.

But when God does call us to share we must be willing to do so with our children over a dinnertime conversation, as we drive home from school, or even to write songs for worship recounting god’s mercy in our life if that will best honor God. God has transformed us and we must be willing to share what we were, what we are, and what God promises we will become.

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

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