Stories reveal the deepest things in life; deep stories transcend life.
Everything in life is narrative, and life is really a series of dramatic scenes. Yet we travel in and out of life without a clue about the major plots or minor characters revealed in our own real-life stories. For most of us, our life story is a mystery.
First, we enter the world into a family of people we don’t even know and many of us have had to distance ourselves from in order to survive or find peace and our purpose. Later, we move off to college or to work in environments where we also don’t know anyone nor anything about the cultures we move in. We accept a job based on a job description that never really reveals the whole story. The descriptions never tell us about the characters at work or the cultural nuances we need to know nor how to respond to different types of people there. Nothing in life is free of narrative, and yet we don’t even know who we are in our most important story.
Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story. —John Eldredge
Eugene Peterson says, “We live in narratives, we live in story,” and yet we often misunderstand the story we find ourselves in. However, our understanding of our nature as human beings, or ontological understanding, and our understanding of our existential purpose are defined by our stories, which are often mysterious to us. You see we cannot understand stories that we have never told nor scripted nor edited, and often we really don’t know where our stories are going. But stories, says John Eldredge in The Sacred Romance, are the language of the heart. Therefore, we must tell and re-tell our stories to reveal, heal, and resurrect our own hearts!
We weave together the most fundamental elements of our lives in stories.
So, with that in mind, I will ask you again, “What is your story?” Where have you come from? Where are you now? Where are you going? And what do you love? I want to know your story.
Here is some of my story in seven scenes.
1) Not in my wildest imaginings could I have ever imagined that a little girl born in Harlem and raised on 180th Street in Queens, New York, would end up travelling to over 17 countries and over 40 cities around the world including living and loving in Tanzania, East Africa, and Santa Barbara, California.
2) Never could I have imagined the little girl whose 6th-grade standardized test scores in reading and comprehension revealed a very, very poor reader would later be accepted to medical school at age 52 and at 62 graduate from Yale University School of Divinity.
3) Never could I have imagined being the first woman in the Santa Barbara area to become an Elder in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
4) Never could I have imagined that the relationship with my first love — Babatunde Folayemi — would end up in a marriage that lasted 43 years, and even now, although he passed away almost two years ago, my love for him transcends even death, space, and time. It is in an eternal realm and safely holds a sacred place here in my heart of hearts. Never could I have imagined such deep love.
5) And never could I have imagined writing to you in this column and being so blessed by God beyond measure.
6) And yet my story is not over. I still dream of loves and of grace in relationships and extended families.
7) I still dream of founding a movement that expresses — through art, music, dance, poetry, film — or the arts — the language of the heart. Expressing our broken, wounded, rejoicing, singing, joyful hearts is my medicine. This “Media Medicine” allows us as individuals, families, communities, and nations to heal our hearts and to soar. It inspires the highest and the best in our natures and frees us to live in the meta-narrative of the Most High which is faith, hope, love, and courage.
So again I ask you, “What is your story?” Tell me, please. I really want to know because like the song “How Deep Is Your Love” says, we live in a world breaking us down when they should all let us be, we belong … you and me.
So, how deep is your story?
Stories are the fundamental structures of life. But deep stories transcend life and reveal the heart of God.