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What’s Your Story?

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What’s Your Story?

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There are hundreds if not thousands of fascinating stories about people’s lives in the Bible. Some, like David, have multiple chapters and books that cover them. We know a lot about David—his calling to be king as a young shepherd boy, his numerous battles, his game of “cat-and-mouse” with King Saul, his sin with Bathsheba and much, much more. While he died long before I was born (I’m not that old . . . ), I feel like I know him fairly well because his story is well documented in the Bible.

Others, like the judge Shamgar, have only one verse about them: “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel” (Judges 3:31). This guy managed to whoop up on 600 Philistines single-handedly with a farm implement and save an entire nation, but I don’t get to know anything else about him? C’mon! There has got to be way more to the story than that . . .

At any rate, it got me thinking: everybody has a story. While our lives might not be as exciting as David’s or Shamgar’s, there is a story to your life. There is a story to my life. I’ve shared some of it on these pages before, and I’d be happy to share it with you in person someday if you like. But that’s not really the purpose of this article. What I want you to think about is your story.

Where To Start?

God has a purpose for your life. He wants you to become His sons and daughters and be a part of His family in eternity as a part of the Kingdom of God (see “Consider Your Future” in the Fall 2022 issue of Compass Check). But within that framework, as you live your life seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33), you have choices to make: What will you do for work? Where will you live? Who will you marry?

As a teen, your story is just beginning. It might feel like it’s not much of a story at this point, and that your life has been pretty boring. Maybe you grew up in the Church with your parents raising you and your siblings to keep the Sabbath. It might feel like your story is no different than anyone else’s. But no two people’s stories are the same. Yours is unique. Maybe you have siblings who have a similar story, but it’s not the same.

Perhaps your story has been rather . . . complicated. Not as straightforward as your whole family liking and being a part of the Church. Maybe there are things that weren’t so great, and that you don’t like to talk about. That’s okay. Not every part of your story needs to be shared with everyone. One of the things that you will learn over time is how and when to share various parts of your story. You are the narrator. And while you should always be honest, you get to decide exactly how your story will be told.

The really neat thing about our stories is that they are continuously unfolding and not over yet. If I were to tell you my story from 10 years ago, it would be very different than it is today. Back then, I was an engineer who rode a motorcycle to work every day. Now I’m a pastor, and drive a very boring four-door sedan. And those are just two parts of my story—my job and my transportation. There’s a lot more to me than what I drive and where I work!

My point is, our stories are constantly changing. They aren’t always happy and there are some unpleasant bits and pieces to them, but you are the writer. If life’s circumstances take you in a direction you didn’t want to go, you have the power to write a new chapter. Go in another direction—one you want to go in. And while there may be detours here and there, ultimately, you get to write the story. You get to decide what your life will be about.

Decisions About the Next Steps

You’ve probably had to write papers for English or history in school, right? You turn in the first draft and your teacher comes back with some suggestions for modification. Maybe she wrote a note on it that said, “Why did you feel this way?”, “Expound on this concept” or “What does this have to do with your main point?” Something to let you know that maybe one part of your paper needed more work, or that perhaps some parts should be emphasized less.

In a way, your teacher is helping guide your next steps. They aren’t telling you in what direction to take your paper, but rather asking you questions to help you make that decision yourself. Why is it that you feel a certain way? Does some particular detail of your paper have anything to do with what you want to talk about? Maybe what you thought your main point was at the start of the paper isn’t really your main point, and by asking the question, your teacher has helped you see that you really wanted to talk about something else.

The same can be said about life. As a teen, you might have a pretty good idea of what you want to do for the rest of your life. I knew by the time I was eight or so that I wanted to be an engineer. That’s not right or wrong, good or bad, it’s just my story. Consequently, I spent most of my academic life in pursuit of this goal and it served me well for many years. (God later led me away from engineering as a career and guided me to be in the ministry, but that’s a story for another day!)

On the other hand, maybe you’re not so sure where your story is going right now. Maybe you know you like to write, but you’re not sure how that translates into a job. Maybe you like spending time outdoors, but aren’t sure how that will impact the rest of your life. While the final choice is up to you, a mentor or guide such as a parent, teacher or other trusted adult who has had some life experience is a great resource to help you make the choices that will best help you pursue your desires.

Edits and Corrections

Go back to David’s story for a minute. Overall, he was a great guy, or at least God thought so during one point of his life. While addressing Saul, who was king over Israel at the time, God’s servant, Samuel said, “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14). God was letting Saul know that his time as king was coming to an end and David would be the new king. Why? Because David was a man after God’s own heart. In other words, David was someone who was really trying to be like God.

Of course, later on, he made some pretty big mistakes. As mentioned before, his sin with Bathsheba was a pretty big one. It’s one that David learned a lot from, and quite frankly, so can we. Psalm 51 was written in the wake of this mistake, and David pours his heart out in genuine repentance, asking God for mercy and forgiveness of his sins. “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). David not only wanted to be forgiven of his mistakes, but he also wanted them cleaned—removed—from his story.

He continues in verses 7-9, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”

Here’s the point: While we might not forget the mistakes we make, God does (compare Psalm 103:12). And even though mistakes might have consequences, they do not need to define who we are or our future story. Sure, they might influence it, and hopefully make us wiser to avoid similar mistakes in the future, but our past does not need to define our future.

Not All Mistakes Are Sins

Like David, in our own personal story, we will make mistakes. Some are bigger than others. But not all mistakes are sinful. Maybe you think you want to be an accountant, but after a few classes at a local community college, find out it’s not right for you. Perhaps you spent a little time and money figuring that out, but that’s okay. It’s not a sin, just a realization that what you thought you wanted to do for a living isn’t really what you wanted to do. It’s okay to change your story, even in mid-sentence sometimes.

Even if a decision we make turns out to be the wrong one for a time, just like a sin, we can learn from it and try not to repeat it. If it turns out accounting isn’t your thing, randomly taking a class in carpentry might not be the best choice. A better decision would be to go back to your mentors, or perhaps a guidance counselor and evaluate what might be the wisest next move.

Start Writing!

What’s your story? Maybe you’ve got a pretty good idea, or maybe no clue at all. But now is the perfect time to begin writing yours. Take out a paper and pencil (or use a tablet or whatever works for you), and put some things down on paper. What do you like to do? Do you know anyone who has this job now? Are there things you are interested in learning more about? Is there a particular activity that brings you joy? All of these are great starting points to begin writing your own personal story.

Everyone has a story. You, me, everyone. There is a story behind the life of the quiet widow at church who you barely know. Your parents and pastor have stories. The mother of three children you help watch after services has a story. Ask them what their stories are, and learn how and why they made the choices they did in life, and why they think/feel/do the things they do. All this will help you as you create a story of your own!