We share our house with a cute little black dog named Pinkerton. We brought him home from the pound almost five years ago, and although he didn’t come with papers — leaving us uncertain of his exact heritage — he seems to be largely miniature Schnauzer. He has the most fantastic personality, and I’m not embarrassed to say I talk to that little dog, and sometimes I even wonder if he knows what I’m saying. His stumpy tail wags, and the speed of its wagging depends upon my tone and excitement level, as he cocks his head and watches me with rapt attention shining from his black eyes. He seems to adore me.
That’s only one small part of my story.
I haven’t mentioned yet the one about the malt shake at Wendy’s, which gets retold pretty much every time the family is gathered and my younger brother is in attendance. Or the one about riding roller coasters with my dad at Knott’s Berry Farm. Or the one with my great-grandpa and the Whoopee cushion. I haven’t told you about this guy I married and would choose again in a heartbeat, or the two incredible daughters that rounded out our family unit, or the eight times we moved in a twelve-year period. You can’t really know me without hearing about the love I have for words and my experiences with Jesus and some of the people I’m blessed to call friends. Each new memory reveals just one more aspect of the whole person that makes me, me.
This world is full of stories. The news this week was particularly brutal, full of the worst kind of reading material: governments gone bad, torture and coercion, child abductions, families burning alive in car crashes, rescue workers dying in the line of duty, countries torn apart by politics, and miners trapped underground… all that in one morning’s reports.
If you’re willing to dig a little deeper, you may stumble on the buried stuff that is much easier to read, but doesn’t sell as many copies: Olympic medals, cures and advancements in science, soldiers coming home, and fast food restaurants giving out free food to those stuck in the abnormally heavy snowstorms in the mid-West.
Visit your local library and notice the shelves of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Seeing those rows makes me curious about what stories have not yet been told, about authors too intimidated, or as yet undiscovered, who have not written their greatest work.
I have fantasies sometimes about being trapped in a Barnes and Noble for an extended period of time, say six months or so. In my daydream, there is always a well-stocked supply of food and a means of communicating with the outside world and security in knowing I won’t be stuck there forever; beyond that, I’m content with row after row of shelves, heavy with books.
When we meet new people and have an interest in getting to know them better, we ask, “What’s your story?” Where did you grow up, what do you do, where do you work, what does ‘fun’ look like for you…? Knowing their favorite color and food; whether or not they love dogs or cats; figuring out their personality type and how they would react to this or that situation: all these things are part of what makes up our individual stories, and the more you love and invest in someone, the more important the details become.
The closer you move, the more the trust grows, and the relationship progresses beyond the surface inquiries like color and pets, and eases into the realms of dreams and goals and rooms of the heart that remain unopened for large periods of our lives. Everyone needs someone who is intentional in pursuing the most guarded and inaccessible parts of our story, in seeking out who we genuinely are, at a core level.
At some future moment in eternity, I look forward to a Great Storytelling, when we’ll hear each others’ accounts of life in this place. When I will have the opportunity to thank those who inspired me and challenged me, to recount their impact on my life and the circumstances surrounding our interaction, and others will do the same.
This Storytelling will be a time when we can each hear of the glory that walked with us through this world and gradually revealed more and more of our authentic selves. When pain is seen in the proper perspective, and the scales fall from our eyes, enabling us to view our circumstances without limitations, with all the accuracy of truth.
I imagine laughter and back-slapping and hopefully a few heartfelt tears when the swell of emotion is too much to contain inside. Rapt attention. Heads nodding in understanding, because as diverse and original as we all are, our stories run much along the same lines.
Then finally, a chance for The Storyteller to take the stage and reveal to each one of us how our story appears in the scope of eternity, how all of heaven looking on was recording and applauding and cheering in undying support.
I have a chance now to choose how my story will be told… and I want to make it a good one.