In Acts 7, Stephen has outraged the religious authorities and he is about to be stoned to death. Yet instead of defending himself, he recalls the story of the salvation of his people. He recounts the ways in which God has been with them through all the twists and turns of their history as a people, implying and trusting that God will be with him as he faces his accusers.
Stephen's story of salvation is an example of how he who is in the midst of a very bad situation--about to be stoned--gives credit and praise to God who has helped his people face adversity. I admire that ability to see and tell his story from the perspective of God's care for them in the midst of difficulty.
The way we tell the story of our lives becomes a lens by which we see life and define ourselves. It becomes a script for us in how we see ourselves, others, the world, and even God. Some people's story is that of how everyone has hurt them and they are victims. Others who may have even more experiences of adversity tell their stories in terms of how they have overcome; if they are people of faith, they give credit and praise to God for helping them overcome. We should be very careful how we tell our stories since we can spiral down into despair or find hope and courage to face the future.
Even how we tell the story of our church can provide a script that can bring despair or hope to us as a people. I would guess that there are no churches in the Minnesota Annual Conference who have not faced adversity in the past and yet they have perserved. How do we tell our story? What did we learn in those times? Do we live so much in the moment that we fail to remember how God has been with us in the past?
How do you tell your story in such a way that empowers you instead of deflates you? Let me give you an example. I was told when I was in the 8th grade that it was "too bad you're a girl, you'd make a great preacher." People often gasp in our 21st century context (although not everyone!!!). Yet I understand that the person who said that and people who believed it (so as not to recommend me to the seminary I wanted to go to because I was a woman) had no imagination for women in ministry. Even I didn't initially have the imagination that it was possible. But now I do. I could be the victim in my own story or I could see it as what continues to happen in our lives, faith, and culture all the time: there's so much we don't have an imagination to understand. See how far our imaginations have gone! How much farther might they go in the future? What is God waiting for me to imagine today?
So how do you tell your story in light of God's salvation history in your life?
How do you tell your church's story in light of God's salvation history?
How might we someday tell the United Methodist Church's story in light of the context of God's salvation history?