The Value of a Story

by Jeremiah Dowling

The night I was introduced to Ashanti the stars overhead spun with a newfound wonder. It was one of my first nights in West Africa and I was so intrigued by their culture I agreed to exchange stories with a man named Jackson. Late one night, as the others drifted into sleep, we mirrored the constellations with our storytelling. Jackson began to unravel the tale of a person named Ashanti – a witty and imaginative character used in Ghanaian folktales. That night, on the edge of the southern hemisphere, I heard of a daring rescue and a miraculous escape. Breathlessly, I listened as Ashanti’s story was revealed to me with such specificity and beauty. There I delved into a world unknown to all, but the storyteller and his audience.

 

The beauty, however, faded with a single question. When Jackson’s story was finished, and we conversed about it’s meaning, he looked at me and asked, “Now, could you tell me an American story?” I froze. My mind turned frantically, “An American story? Do we even have any stories?” I had agreed to exchange stories, true, but did I really have a story worth telling?

 

Rapidly, I began to search my memory, and, after a long pause, I began to tell the first story that came to mind: ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. As the story came out of my mouth I began to kick myself. His story was filled with such detail and beauty, but here I was telling a children’s story that wasn’t even really American. From the first word to the last I felt ashamed of my ‘American’ story. Reluctantly, I continued telling it until the tortoise won the race and moral was revealed. A beautiful exchange of stories was ruined because I had no story of value to tell.


When I had finished I looked over at Jackson to see how disappointed he was with my story, but instead I saw something that surprised me: Jackson was quizzical. He was actually interested in my story, and proceeded to tell me what he thought my story meant, with passion and excitement. I sat there dumbfounded as in a few minutes Jackson began to pull more meaning out of this children’s story than I had in 20 years. He found an immeasurable value in my story and I began to wonder how I had ever missed it.

 

This is often true for most of us. It is so easy to look at other cultures and assume they are telling the only stories that deserve to be told. We can so easily bask in the luster of a West African folk tale – with the depth of ancient oral tradition to back it up – and yet are hesitant to even consider uttering a word of our own. When we agree to share our stories, however, we can begin to see that even the shallowest of stories has something to teach us about ourselves and about those around us. Even the simplest of stories has value. In many ways it is as if we are truly seeing our stories for the first time. The same is true of the story of our lives.

 

So often we glory in the lives of others, and yet when we look at our own life, and the story it is telling, we shudder. We pour through books, browse the Internet, and binge watch Netflix in a frantic search for stories that inspire, and yet never consider the possibility that our story could be an inspiration to someone else. We sell ourselves drastically short, but the truth is that just as your life matters, so does your story.

 

This may sound like an over generalization, but consider, for a moment, all those that the LORD used in scripture to make himself known to the world. He did not just choose the strong, and the bold; the wise and the wealthy. No, He used countless individuals with differing: backgrounds, flaws, strengths, personalities, influences, opinions, and abilities. He renamed a liar to represent his people (Genesis 35); used a group of lepers to save Israel from a famine (2 Kings 7:3-16); anointed a child to rule a kingdom (2 Kings 22); brought a centurion to declare faith publically (Matthew 8:5-13); and called a diverse group of average men to establish his church (Matthew 3:18-22; 9:9-13; Acts 9). He empowered anyone who was willing to make his glory known, and continues to do so today.

 

Consider his words to the disciples in Matthew:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” 

(Matthew 28:18b-20a ESV)

 

Jesus was given all authority, and yet he desires to use us. He has appointed us to make disciples and to teach others how to live as Christ taught us. Not only did he create us with intrinsic value (Genesis 1:27), but also he chose our lives as the very vessel by which he reminds the world of their value and of his love. Jesus came into the world that our stories might collide. The beauty of the gospel is that the God of the universe would come down to make us a part in His story and in the same moment ‘empty himself’ (Philippians 2:6-7) to be a part of our story.

 

He did not consider anyone’s story ‘worthless’, but came that the gospel might intersect with our lives, showing its deeper value. He looks into us and pulls out a deeper meaning that we have forgotten wie kann ich viagra kaufen. With boundless pleasure he recalls our story, reiterates our purpose, and asks if we might share it with someone who feels lost and worthless themselves. It was His desire not simply to save us, but to use our story to save others – by leading them to the gospel.

 

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