The importance of sharing our stories - what comes to mind whenever you drive by a cemetery? It’s difficult for me to drive by a cemetery and not imagine how many untold stories there are buried beneath the sod. In fact there are times - that is during those warm summer days - when my wife and I will actually pull over alongside the road, get out of the car, and walk the aisles between the graves. As we read the many markers we try to envision the life of those who have passed on. People are story-bearers - we have unique experiences, dreams, memories full of treasures (good and bad) that need to be shared.
As pastor, author and poet Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Enlarging on Pastor’s Peterson’s quote we might say that our stories connect us to one another – we need to share our stories so that others may grow – be comforted – take challenge and feel as though they are part of the whole. The following quotation, part of many works written by John Donne (1642 AD), distinguished as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets, as he was recovering from a serious illness illustrates what I’m talking about.
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Concerning the value of shared stories we might conclude as this unknown author concluded. “Life is not an entity unto itself. We live in dependence upon not only the Master Storyteller but the cast of characters he has chronicled into our narrative.” In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “I had always felt life first a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.”
C.S. Lewis fittingly describes heaven at the end of his Chronicles of Narnia as a place where good things continually increase and life is an everlasting story in which “every chapter is better than the one before.” Life is fleeting and we have so much to teach those who journey with us before we join the community of those who have passed on. There is a story that emerges within each one of us and everyone around us has a place within it.
Take the time to share your story to those whom you deem to love. Keeping in mind that no one lives their life in abstract discussions – no one is perfect and the world around us has questions whose answers need to be realistic and grounded in experience. Consider the parable’s of Jesus. The stories we tell need to satisfy the heart as they stimulate the mind. Use your story to raise the level of biblical truth in the world around you. And never - ever – ever underestimate the influence of your life – it is God’s gift to you. Share it with others. Someone needs to hear it.
Until we can sit down together I remain faithfully yours
Glenn T. Horne