“How we think of God is of no importance”— no importance!—“except insofar as it is related to how God thinks of us.” – C.S. Lewis
There’s an amazing conversation that happens at the tail end of John’s Gospel. Jesus, post-resurrection, has appeared to seven of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee and after revealing himself to them, restores Peter by asking him three times, “do you love me?” In the afterglow of this restoration, Jesus predicts to Peter something of the manner of his eventual martyr’s death. Peter’s response to this is to to turn and see John (referred to in the narrative as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) and to ask Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” The response of Jesus to Peter is telling. In essence, he tells him, “what’s it to you? You follow me!” How often do we respond to a revelation of our own story by asking about someone else?
Likewise, in the C.S. Lewis story, “The Horse and His Boy”, there is an episode where Shasta, the main character, encounters Aslan, the Christ-like Lion who the entire Narnian story centers around. In this encounter, Shasta pours out his heart and recounts his experiences of suffering, fear and loss. Aslan reveals to Shasta that he had been present and active in his life all along, reassuring him that he is not alone. Shasta’s response is to ask Aslan about another of his actions, asking why he had acted in a particular way in the life of his friend Aravis. Aslan’s response is similar to the response of Jesus to Peter.
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
Why is it that we have such a hard time hearing our own story from the Lord, without wanting to compare it to someone else’s? We are not told the story of others. We are told our own story. To be told your own story requires that we choose to let the story of others be their own. It requires that we see where God has been present in our life, even in the most difficult and painful of times. And in doing this, we must also let go of the need to make judgments on where God has been present (or absent) in the lives of others. The fact is that the more we insist on comparing and judging our lives in comparison to others, the more we are inhibiting our ability to be told our own story. Our responsibility toward others is not to tell them their story. It is to love them and encourage them to hear God telling them their story. This is much harder than telling others their story for them. It requires humility, patience and trust on our part. And it requires us to spend more time listening to what God is telling us than filling in the blanks on God’s behalf. Perhaps most difficult of all, it requires us to slow down, put down our phones, let our “to do” lists fall to the wayside for awhile and be content to focus on the moment we are actually living in, as opposed to the pains of our past or our fears of the future.
Who is telling you your story? There are many who wish to be the narrator of your life. We can listen to all kinds of voices that have a variety of narratives that can fill in the blanks of our identity. We can choose the narrator that says that we are in this by ourselves and it’s up to us to sink or swim. We can choose the one that tells us that we are victims, that our story is someone else’s fault and that we are powerless to change the plot. Or we can allow the Spirit of God to tell us our story. We can choose to allow our eyes and ears to be opened and our hearts to be strengthened to choose to walk with Him step by step. This is the path to healing and hope. This is the path to destiny and impact. So I ask it one more time.
Who is telling you your story?