The Bible is written primarily in the narrative form, because humans are primarily narrative creatures. Our most deeply held, most animating beliefs, the ones that color our vision and construct the way we function in this world, are embedded not in logic, but in the narratives we internalize. Essentially, we are defined by our stories.
Historical records tell us that there were tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem during the Passover when they nailed Jesus to a cross. To most witnesses, he was Jesus the dead heretic; but to a few, he was Christ, the lamb of God. Thousands may have been there in person, but experience alone can’t bring illumination or transformation. You need to know the right story. It’s the story—how we connect and interpret a series of events—that assigns meaning. In the same way as Jesus’ identity was skewed in people’s eyes, failing to interpret your own personal narrative can lead you to disfigure your own identity. Because we aren’t shaped just by the events we experience—we’re shaped by the interpretation of those events, the story we take in from it. Narrative determines identity.
Although the events of our lives don’t change, the narrative changes depending on the perspective. If we aren’t careful, the goals we aim for and the expectations we hold for ourselves will be set by whatever impressions first grip us. And when we let the loudest voices of ambition and conceit and envy and fear define the narrative, we are victim to their lies and robbed of our identity. But, we can invite God in—we can allow God to give us His perspective, to tell us the true story, and show us who we are.
If you’ve spent any amount of time with your story, you perhaps already have a certain grasp on it. But our histories are not static. As you move forward, it evolves. Just as the coming of Jesus forever cast fresh light and new depth to the story of Israel, each chapter of your life leads you to a new point from which you can look back and see more—more of what God had prepared without your awareness, more of the subtle threads God has slowly been weaving together over the years, more of a grand story God is unfolding before you. This is the power of the Gospel: not only that life will get better once Jesus enters in, but that when He enters, the whole story changes. Even the concrete hold of the past cannot escape the transforming power of the Good News. The new redefines what came before, and as the story unfolds, from glory to glory, the true nature of even the darkness glows brighter as it rises to surface. Behold, He is making all things new.
So for me, I learn my story. And I say “I learn my story” in the same as way I might say “I exercise my body” or “I eat food”, in that it’s something I do regularly, persistently, and indefinitely. I learn my story, again and again. I learn my story because I have accepted the reality that yes, I have come to know myself, but I still have yet to grasp the full measure of my identity and purpose.
In this world, what has already happened will never change. But God is a storyteller with only one story, still being told, and I believe that at the end of all things, we will all together look back and confess that His story was perfect, and that we wouldn’t have it any other way.