The Eternal Value of Story
I’d like to introduce you to a couple of people I have known through the years, both of whom I have recently become reacquainted. I’m free to share their stories, but I had to assign them names because I never really knew theirs. But their stories have changed me and many others. I offer them as evidence of the eternal value of story.
Cindy’s eyes were downcast because her hopes had been dashed. Five failed marriages made her feel like an outcast, so she just avoided people whenever possible. She knew that the men in her life weren’t really interested in her hopes and dreams. Other women–especially the married ones–kept their distance. Cindy couldn’t really blame them. She was just living out her days without much hope for anything to change. But Cindy’s life did change.
Meet Icy M.
Icy M also had no hope. His disillusionment went all the way back to childhood. He begged for help, but it was never enough to overcome the baggage he had carried as long as he could recall. He spent his days wondering what he had done to deserve a life full of misery, a life of hopelessness. Icy M’s life changed, too.
Neither of the folks to whom I have introduced you thought that their lives had purpose in the present. They could not have imagined that the eternal value of story would apply to them. And yet, in another couple of decades, their stories will be thousands of years old. Because they met Jesus. And everything about their stories changed. Hope replaced despair.
The Other Side of Their Stories
I met Cindy in the Bible book of John, chapter four. She is better known as the woman at the well. Jesus introduced her to living water and changed her life to such a point that she left and told everyone in her village–the very ones she was trying to avoid–about Him. The eternal value of story in her life changed perceptions of true worship and who can come to Jesus.
Icy M (pronounced “I-see-’em”) is the blind man in John 9. The eternal value of story in Icy M’s life can be found in his response to who he believed Jesus was. We still sing it today: “…I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25b ESV).
The theme of God’s story throughout the Bible is redemption, applied to real people at differing levels of helplessness and hopelessness throughout Scripture. The eternal value of story can be applied to your life story, too, if you are a follower of Jesus. Your story matters. Eternally.
If, then, your story has eternal value, what are you doing to make sure that you pass it on to others? Could those in your own family tell your story? Your small group or Sunday school class?
Telling Your Story
Donald Miller offers a simple method for telling your story in his ebook How to Tell a Story. It’s the formula followed by the greatest stories ever told, a simple structure that incorporates the eternal value of story:
A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy or tragedy.
Plug your life into this formula and see what story results. Then, continue to apply it to other smaller episodes within your life. It’s a very effective way to get down to the bare bones of your life story.
Want to practice? Go to the What I Value Most site. Read my story and others. (Please excuse the error in my story; there is no easy way to edit on the site.) Click “Share” on the menu and tell your own story. Because the eternal value of story applies to yours, too. Your story matters.
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.