Surrender Your Story

19/08/2013 — 3 Comments

2013-story

The only thing I love more than a good story is a good story worked into song. A story song is a song that tells a story. This is the main reason why I love bands such as Casting Crowns and why “closet” country music lovers can’t stop singing Coward of the County and Gambler in the shower.  Stories are powerful. They have the ability to turn what is mundane into something magical — what is obvious into something surreal. Stories are so powerful because they resonate with our lives, our experiences.

We identify with stories. We don’t just understand them, we relate. We don’t just hear them, we feel them. Stories are more than just a logical organization of nouns, adjectives and verbs; they are living entities. We tend to remember stories better than abstract facts because stories reside not just in our brains, but in our hearts. They become a part of us – or rather, we are a part of them.

Which is probably why stories tend to be even more magical when worked into songs. The only reason I love country music (there, I said it) is because of the story approach many country-song-writers take. But there’s something even more amazing about good stories. You probably didn’t know this, but no writer has ever written an original good story. Not even a fictional one. The beauty of every story lies in the fact that it is grounded in reality. Every work of fiction is worth reading only because it reminds us of something real. The setting may be wonderland. The characters may be talking animals. But what makes the story worth reading is that wonderland is a land and the animals are talking. It is this allusion to reality that makes every work of fiction worth our attention.

education-books-stories-6702200The worst writer is the purely imaginative writer — the one who doesn’t see the need to consult and conform with reality. The best writers are the most unoriginal writers — the ones who bother to create heroes that bleed and bad guys that love their wives. The Chronicles of Narnia are not a pure product of C.S. Lewis’ imagination. We admire Lucy because her innocence reminds us of our own when we were younger. We are not sure what we feel about Edmund probably because he has both a good and bad side — very much like us. We love Aslan because he reminds us of something else, someone else — Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, we tend to love characters in stories (imaginary or not) because they remind us of real people in a real world experiencing real struggles.

Back to my thesis: no writer has ever written an original good story.

I will use a song by Natalie Grant to illustrate my argument. Make a Way is a sad story about a teenage girl who goes into the city, hoping to make it big as a model and become famous. However, the first man she encounters ends up using her instead of helping her. She sacrifices her pride and dignity at the altar of magazine covers and modelling contracts. But her life never improves. She feels worse, not better. But she encourages herself with the words that drove her down the road of fame-seeking:

I’ll make a way
I’ll do whatever it takes
Even though it won’t be easy
I have a plan and though I may not understand
Someday, I’ll make a way

Despair drives her to walk aimlessly down a street. Natalie Grant captures her state more vividly than I ever could: “Walking down the road, in the city where she’d come with so much hope. Her vision had long died, along with all her pride, and she found herself at the end of her rope …” This is where she comes across a church, with the choir singing about Jesus Christ. The young woman hears the message, is drawn in, and falls down on her knees to pray. Then she hears Jesus telling her words that are very familiar and yet strangely comforting:

I’ll make a way
I’ll do whatever it takes
Even though it won’t be easy
I have a plan and though you may not understand
Today, I’ll make a way

These are the same words she had been telling herself ever since she first came into the city. “I’ll make a way”, “I will do it”, “I have a plan”, “I will survive”. Words that had grown stale and empty over time. Words that had become fossilized into maxims better left to bumper stickers and tweets, words that meant nothing because they had become unrealistic, untrue.

Yet, Jesus comes to her and says those very words, and the paradigm shifts. Suddenly, there’s hope. A new light shines into her life. It is not because she heard a different story. The only difference is that she heard the same story from a different person. She heard the words from the only person who had the power and will to make them come true, and – to reiterate my argument – the only person who ought to have said those words in the first place — Jesus.

By surrendering her story, the young woman gave life to her story. By giving up her story to Jesus, she owned the story even more strongly. Her words may have sounded original, deep, motivational even. But they were coming from the wrong lips. She thought they were her words, her resolve, her determination. Yet, the reality is that we have no resolve, no passion and no determination apart from Christ.

LivingStories

So, here’s an assignment for you. Go and look up every song, every movie, every novel that has ever moved your heart and welled you up. Examine it carefully and you will discover this amazing truth; it is always a plagiarized, distorted version of another person’s story. A grander story. God’s story.

Do not settle for mediocre stories. Let God’s story be your standard. Yes, those love songs may make your heart melt, but they are coming from the wrong lips. Learn to re-purpose your stories — whether you’re the one writing them or the one reading them. Let God redeem your stories.

Every good story points to a better story because it flows from a perfect story – God’s.

No human writer has ever written an original good story because only one writer is good, and only one story is original.

In the beginning was the Word.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell.

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3 responses to Surrender Your Story

  1. 

    Very Very Very true!! Thanks Cornell!!

  2. 

    Glad to see I’m not the only closet “gambler” lover! 😄

  3. 

    For some reason this one touched deep down. 🙂

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