What's Your Story?
By Dr. James H. Furr, President and Professor of Church and Culture at Houston Graduate School of Theology
During a recent visit with my mother in North Texas, my wife asked her to share some stories about herself. The invitation initiated a delightful hour of tales about family traditions, sibling shenanigans, school adventures, a fulfilling marriage, and heart-felt homemaking. These episodes of faith, hope, and love elicited laughter, tears, and a deep sense of belonging. I was not just hearing her story, I was also hearing mine because they are so deeply intertwined.
While there are benefits to distilling principles and truths from the caldron of human experience and reflection, we inevitably carry these convictions in our heads and hearts through the memories and recitation of life stories. Preachers may try to get away with preaching the same basic sermon from time to time, but they know the listeners will always remember the illustrations and jokes, so they have to be changed.
Christian Scripture, through its many forms, expresses the grand narrative of God’s engagement with all creation. In one of the great mysteries of that design, we are permitted to deny God’s version of reality and to worship other gods described by other accounts of how we might live. In our consumer-driven culture, commercial advertising and perception management generate countless storylines that deviate slightly or radically from the biblical narrative. We are challenged, empowered, or wooed to create our own stories, to determine our own life purpose, to become whomever we choose to be. The theological problem is the presumption that we are our own authority when, as Paul told the Corinthians, “we are not our own, we were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
HGST’s core value of Biblical Integrity states: We affirm the authoritative witness of Holy Scripture as the meta-narrative into which the stories of our lives properly fit and flourish. To fit into God’s grand narrative means that every part of who are—our beliefs, desires, values, practices, and relationships—align with God’s intent. We are shaped, moment by moment, through the molding of the Spirit’s hands to align with “the grain of the universe.” To flourish does not mean our lives will be consistently easy, but it does mean we can experience a profound sense of peace and joy as we move toward God’s purpose for our lives, especially in communities of faith that shape and share the journey with us.
Narrative theology is a valuable perspective that continues to weave its way through various biblical, theological, ethical, and other disciplines. We are lovingly invited to place ourselves within the divine narrative. So, what’s your story?