A Better Story

There is something wonderfully powerful about STORIES.

Stories are universal – crossing boundaries of language, culture and age. We can all relate to stories, and it is in the context of narrative that the human heart truly responds. In fact, people have been telling and responding to stories since the beginning of time. It’s how most cultures pass on information from generation to generation.

Interestingly, recent evidence from neurology and psychology is confirming that humans think in narrative structures. Concepts conveyed in story form – more than ideas explained with logic and analysis – imprint themselves naturally into human minds.

It’s why we can remember a book or a film from years back, but can’t remember the PowerPoint we saw 10 minutes ago.

There is something about story (especially a good story) that is able to capture our hearts, our minds, and our imagination.

Now, I believe inside each of us is a deep desire to not only connect to a great story, but to be part of a great story.

A thirst for meaning we can’t always explain. A desire to be part of something bigger than our own lives. Part of something that really matters.

But here’s the problem with living a great story… it’s hard!

People want an interesting life, but the truth is interesting is never easy. Telling a great story with your life requires sacrifice and pain and struggle. It is less like winning the lottery and more like training for a marathon. Happy endings are never just handed out. A great story takes risk and courage.

Robert McKee, considered worldwide to be the guru on storytelling, believes that every great plot has three basic elements:

  • A person (or group of people)
  • Who want something
  • And are willing to overcome conflict to get it.

In fact, without ambition or conflict there simply is no story. It’s boring. And it’s the same in real life.

Unfortunately the story our culture is telling us is the story of comfort and security- “get comfortable so you can avoid pain”. Now, that’s not a terrible story, but it’s really not the greatest either. And of course there is nothing wrong with wanting security and comfort, but it cannot be the main theme of our story. There needs to be something more. Something worth fighting for.

I really believe there is such a yearning in our world, and especially in the younger generation, to be liberated from the mediocrity of safe bets – to be delivered from the prison of triviality that is so rife in our culture.

You were not designed to simply survive life. God didn’t come to make you safe, he came to make you brave.

And so, my prayer for you, as you seek to live out a better story, is that you would embrace risk and be willing to overcome conflict.

This prayer, written in 1886, captures my thoughts so beautifully:

“Lord, we do not pray for easy lives. We pray to be stronger men and women. We do not pray for tasks equal to our powers; but for powers equal to our tasks. Then the doing of our work shall be no miracle. But we shall be a miracle. And every day we will wonder at the richness of life, which has come to us through Your incredible grace.”


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22 Comments on “A Better Story

  1. Lovely post! It reminds me of an exchange between Frodo & Sam in “The Two Towers”:

    “Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
    Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
    Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
    Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

  2. Tom, I love this blog. It’s full of beautiful phrases that communicate ideas I connect with. I wouldn’t classify myself as a real risk-taker by nature and I don’t think I have particularly pursued the greatest story. But I have weathered hardship believing that good would come of it, and it has. Hardships and struggles have made my story believable and helped a lot of other people. I do think “easy” is over-rated. Most really worthwhile things come at a price.

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  4. Tom,
    Your points resonated soundly with us. Wonderfully organized and written, this post unfolds like a fine . . . STORY. We expect to center a working group devotion upon this post and the very appropriate prayer. Thank you.
    Jim and Debbie

  5. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you a million times. I recently posted a sermon that was about get up and get going, and today I just want to sit in self pity. What a difference a gloomy looking day can make. Thanks again, I am so glad that I scrolled to the bottom of the page of the blogs I follow. This was so great.

  6. Being able to tell a story is so important in leadership and life. The best story we can tell others is the story about Jesus and His life.

    What book would you recommend if I wanted to read/learn about telling a better story?

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