Everybody Has a Story

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Donald Miller’s teaching on life-as-story has been so good for me over the years. Stephen Lamb reviewed A Million Miles in a Thousand Years here in the Rabbit Room a little while ago, and the ideas in that book still come to mind on a regular basis. At some point almost every day I ask myself, “Am I living a good story?”  Most of the time the answer is no. I’m working on it. But it doesn’t stop with asking myself about my own story. Stories intersect. Another word for that is relationship. And it is in relationship, kinship, and community that the Kingdom lives and breathes.

Here’s part of what Don wrote on his blog:

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A story is a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. So next time you meetscreen-shot-2010-05-17-at-112256-am somebody, delve into their story, not their job or the weather they experience where they live. To find out a person’s story, you have to find out what they want or have wanted in life, what conflict they endured in getting what they wanted, and what great moments of celebration they have experienced. Questions like this:

A CHARACTER THAT WANTS SOMETHING:

1. Why did you come to America?

2. What drives you?

3. What do you hope for for yourself and your family?

AND OVERCOMES CONFLICT:

1. That couldn’t have been an easy transition to America. What was the most shocking thing you endured?

2. Was that a lonely journey?

3. Did you ever think it wasn’t going to happen for you?

TO GET IT:

1. When did you realize you were happier than the average man?

2. If there could be a moment in the future when you’ll realize that you made it, what would that moment look like?

3. When the credits roll, what do you think is most important in life?

If you ask these questions, I promise, you will be entertained for the next hour. Not only will you hear stories, but you will watch as a person truly reflects on their life, and you’ll learn a great deal about what most people find important. You’ll be amazed that most people don’t really care about money or prestige, they care about love, about weddings and funerals, about children, about dignity and integrity.

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Read the rest here.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


5 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    I loved A Million Miles, and also Searching For God (Knows What) and “Father Fiction” (a rerelease of an earlier book). I like Miller because he often thinks outside the prevailing thought-stream and shoots poisoned arrows into the World-Think coursing through our psyches.

    His idea of life as story really struck me when I read A Million Miles. I realized that although at times my life has been a really good story, there have been other times, especially in these past few years, where my story has gotten stuck in parts.

    This post reminds me of Lewis’ Mere Christianity, at the end of The Great Sin. “Don’t imagine if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he won’t be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who’s always telling you that, of course, he’s nobody. Probably all you’ll think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

  2. whipple

    To quote Lewis again, the thing that set off this course of ideas for me was when he wrote that we would either become “eternal glories or everlasting horrors,” and that we were leading everyone we met to one or the other destination. I don’t believe that I have yet learned to apply the story parallel – can it be called a parallel; perhaps it is more a doctrine – to myself. ‘Am I living a good story?’ is a good question, and might be part of that command to “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith; test yourselves.”

    One of the wonderful effects of seeing everyone as a story is that everyone becomes a human being. We no longer reduce the people we meet to quotations: Tom the Barista, Ally the Girl Who Likes The Pixies, Henry the Guy With Tattoos. They are fleshed out beyond their immediate bearing into souls in a tossing sea of hopefully tempered cause-and-effect, latching desperately onto either a bouy or a rock.

    I have lived for a while in the realm of uncertainty in answering the question, “How are you?” I am starting to feel troubled when asking it. Thanks, Don Miller and Andy Peterson for the suggested alternatives. May they live the life of not becoming pat inquiries.

  3. LauraP

    The best chapters of my life story are the ones into which God has written an unexpected character – one that I did not choose, but he chose for me. My story is richer in the parts where he has startled me with the gift of connection to a kindred spirit. This makes me want to live with an open heart – willing to receive the blessing of an unanticipated intersection.

    I met someone recently who said to me, “I don’t know you. Tell me your story.” That is how I plan to open the conversation with the next new character the Author sends into mine.

  4. Gwen

    Its so true. Never judge a book by its cover, because its the story behind it that is the most telling and says so much more. This remind of a tool that was developed called Soularium. Its a tool that uses photographs to engage people, strangers if you will, in a more authentic conversation. One where he or she must reflect upon his/her own life by selecting photos to story questions such as, “What picture best represents your life right now?” “What picture best represents what you wish your life had right now and why?” These are just some questions that stimulate a person to share more from their life story. I so appreciate learning more about the realities of a person’s life, hearing the true heart behind them and understanding their true face. Its amazing how God has written each one so differently and uses each story in ways we never could dream ourselves.

  5. Ben Haley

    As always a great post. This is especially relevant as I am in ministry to Hispanic immigrants. I have asked these questions in certain ways but not quite that clearly. Perhaps I will try to employ these. Thanks as always for your great work and art.

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