Monday, November 2, 2009

Story

As I stood outside the Paramount Theater holding a sign and directing people toward dubious parking spots last Wednesday, I feared that I might not be hip enough for the Story Conference. Watching the flood of artists and pastors arrive in their Chuck Taylors, army jackets, and square-rimmed glasses, carrying cardboard coffee cups, it seemed as if they had let Portland, Oregon loose on the small city of Aurora, Illinois.

I felt like both an insider and an outsider—much the way I felt when I lived in Portland. As the crowd streamed by me, I thought, these are my people. These people are into what I’m into and love what I love. They love the gospel story. They value symbolism and Kingdom vision. They embrace brokenness and condemn consumerism. Beyond the trendy urban garb, they want to live authentic lives and tell a better story—one of restoration and reconciliation. That’s why we’re all here. That’s why we’ve come to this nebulously named conference in the middle of Illinois.

But I was there alone, like I was in Portland. And it started to get to me—this feeling like I’m on the outside, an insignificant part of something great. On the fringe, but wanting to be in the inner circle, to be known and valued, integral even. Maybe that’s why I volunteered at the conference—directing people to restaurants I’d never heard of at lunch time and helping latecomers find a seat. Besides getting in for free, I wanted to offer something worthwhile. But I felt small.

And that was my struggle as I listened to various world changers tell their stories. I wondered if I’m OK with being a small part of a big story? There is an amazing metanarrative unfolding, a grand drama. And I have a role. But what if my role is small? I have to admit, I want to be a big deal. I always have. I want to be on stage, I want to be published, I want to be respected and admired.

But then, it’s not about me. I’m not the point of the story. One of the artists who spoke at the conference wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Fool Moon Rising that describes the moon’s attempts to steal glory from the sun. It was a timely parable to remind me that I shine only by reflection. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7)

The heroes of great stories do not become such by seeking vain glory, but by self-sacrifice, by being willing to be fools. Over and over, I was reminded at the conference that God’s story is best told through my brokenness. As I die to my story and let my life be part of a bigger story of God’s kingdom coming to earth, God’s glory and light is revealed. Wow.

The truth is, I am a big deal to God. I am known and valued. So much so that he invites me into his story, to partner with him in relationship. I get to be a part of the greatest story ever told, to tell his story with my life. By loving, by giving. In pain, in brokenness. Through freedom, through restoration. His story is being told. It’s all about him. And it’s beautiful.


Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.