What If I Don’t Have a Story?
On this week’s podcast, Dan begins a new series about the beauty and power of living, telling, and hearing meaningful stories. Dan is approaching this topic by wrestling with a handful of questions he receives from people who are interested in participating in a Story Workshop. The first question comes from those who feel that they do not have a compelling story to tell. They might grasp the importance of story and want to learn more, but when it comes to their own lives, they feel as if their story is “normal” and boring.
“If you live in a sinful world, and you are a sinner, and you live with other sinners, then there’s no such thing as a normal life. By that alone, you have an intriguing life. Even more important, theoretically, is that you are made by God to reveal something of his glory, and nothing in the universe bears more intrigue and excitement than the possibility that you might discover some of what you were meant to reveal about the goodness of God. […] The presumption that your life is not intriguing defies the very nature of creation and the fall, let alone the work of redemption, the work that you are being formed daily into the very life of Christ.”
The presumption that your life is not intriguing defies the very nature of creation and the fall.
The problem, though, is that—even if we can acknowledge that we have a story to tell—most people are not good storytellers and end up sharing stories that are self-absorbed, tedious, and mundane.
“After countless hours of story voyeuring, I’ve come to a simple conclusion: Most people do not want to tell stories that reveal their heart.”
It’s a two-sided problem. Just as there are poor storytellers, there are perhaps even more poor story hearers. Dan invites us to listen and engage stories in a way that invites the teller to be fully present with the truth and the impact of the story. He shares how two questions in Genesis 4—Where are you? and Why has your countenance fallen?—are particularly powerful in this regard. People who say they don’t have an interesting story may have designed their lives in such a way that they never have to answer those questions.
“To begin to engage story is to engage the heart. To engage the heart is to disrupt the structures that the heart has against any sense of uncertainty or assault. […] The moment you open your heart to those kinds of questions, you’ve got an intriguing topography to walk with the other.”
In coming weeks, Dan will continue this series by discussing the problem of accuracy in memory, the fear of what we might discover in our stories, and the ability to come to peace with stories that we despise. If you are intrigued by this conversation and want to begin the beautiful work of diving into your own story, we invite you to join us for the upcoming Story Workshop, April 20-22 in Denver, CO.