Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
“We need to share our stories”, he said, “because there are plenty of folks who need to hear about a good God.”
We listened from our pews. We shook our heads and took notes. I noticed some folks even cried. The redeemed-est, I guessed.
I’ll be honest. When the sermon began, my first response was to file it in my “Messages for Other People” category of sermons.
Because I’m a sharer. Hence the blog… I already tell my stories, Pastor. Heck, I’m good at it. At dinner parties and family picnics I can draw and entertain a crowd. I know how to exaggerate for effect and my timing is spot on. I can even jerk a tear or make you pee-your-pants like the best of them. Clearly God’s work.
As the sermon went on, the Holy Spirit moved and the less confident I felt about my “kingdom efforts”. Three main weaknesses became clear in my personal, redemptive story telling…
1. My versions.
Yes, I can spin a tale, and I love sharing the stories of my life. But I don’t think mine are the versions God had in mind.
I tell stories about being a victim of unfortunate circumstances and my ability to turn things around or at least persevere.
I tell stories about foolish children who got what they had coming because of a badass mom.
I tell about my most hilariously embarrassing moments, uncanny coincidences, and silly mistakes.
It’s not easy to admit, but I’ve even told about how an extended prayer time, diligent Bible study, or my obedience resulted in God’s favor. Lord, have mercy.
I fail to mention that God’s been the best to me when I’ve been desperate, weak, foolish, lost, afraid, and in the shackles of my own sin.
These are messy tales with loose ends and unresolved conflicts and certainly not as fun to tell. If my life was Netflix, these are the stories that would be listed under the following genres:
Movies with a Unsatisfying Ending
Movies with a Weak Female Lead
Movies with Way Too Many Sequels
Because You Watched Dumb and Dumber
And I’m in no hurry to host a binge party…
2. My pride.
Since my stories which show God at his best often include me at my worst, my pride often keeps me from saying so. I’ve withheld my stories from others, friends even, leaving them in need and alone in their narratives. All for the sake of self-preservation. All because I was afraid to risk my image.
At other times, I’m tempted to fill God’s role. Pride tells me I’ve earned the lead and deserve the big laugh, the highest praise, and the glory of the spotlight.
And to make it worse, I convince myself that I can decide what’s good. I twist the truth, cut scenes, and even eliminate whole characters for a better response from the people. My story. My people.
3. My distractions.
When I’m not paying attention, I miss the story completely. I race from moment to moment, rarely taking the time to notice how they are connected. I’m often too busy to reflect on the important themes of my life or to listen for the voice of its Author.
Even the daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms of nature plead for me to look up, slow down, and acknowledge my place in a Bigger Story. I’m good at ignoring them all. My phone dings, another opportunity calls, and the list never ends.
So many distractions prevent me from fully appreciating my life’s recurring patterns: my need and God’s provision, my weakness and his strength, my rebellion and his grace.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
To tell my redemptive story involves some degree of public repentance. It requires honesty, gratitude, and humility which don’t come naturally or from within. Therefore, for me to correctly share, I need God to save me from myself – even in the telling.
Ironically, I can tell nothing of God’s grace without God’s grace. And really, isn’t that the story?
So, when you think you don’t have a story to tell about God’s goodness, just invite your Redeemer to help and start from your beginning. Because if you’re like me, by the time you get past your opening scene, it will tell itself.
Redeemed and saying so,