Following Jesus

Why You Need to Be Careful About What Stories You Listen To

Sometimes I think stories are like targets in a pinball machine. They have the insane ability to send us bouncing back and forth with how they influence us. For instance, my six-year-old daughter told me the other day that she’s no longer drinking milk from the school cafeteria because one of her friends got sick from it.

“Don’t you think it’s possible they got sick for a different reason?” I asked. “Nope,” she confidently responded. “It was the milk. So I’m only drinking juice now.”

Just like that, a life long decision was set in stone. All because of someone else’s story.

I want to dismiss it as one of the flaws of being young and impressionable except that I see the same tendency in me. Just this morning, I was telling Danny how I recognized a fear of failing in myself. It doesn’t matter how many successes I have under my belt, when the stakes get high I start envisioning the moment I fall flat on my face.

He asked where that came from and I started recounting stories for him of other people who took big risks and failed. “Who are these people you’re talking about?” he asked. I stared at him blankly. “I don’t know their names. Someone just told me what happened to them.”

Isn’t it a little crazy how influenced we are by each other’s stories?

I think it’s way easier to let the negative ones lodge in our hearts than it is to let the good ones inspire us, especially if we’ve already experienced disappointment. Everyone becomes a salesman trying to feed us a line. Everyone wants something from us instead of something for us. Everyone is putting their own spin on things in order to talk us into something we don’t want.

It was in the tone of voice of someone who told me how they’d been hurt in a church setting before and they were never making the mistake of opening their heart again. I saw it in the expression of disbelief on a woman’s face when I told her that God had good plans in store for her regardless of the lack of a spouse at her side. The words were clear when the married couple told us there was no hope left for their relationship.

There are so many reasons not to stake our flag in the ground of trust. I want to be the person that only needs one good reason to do it anyways.

It’s not a big crowd who gather in that place but it’s the kind of company I want to keep. They are the people who write history, push back against what others believe is actually possible, and pull heaven down to earth.

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. Romans 4:18

Can you hear that verse echoing through the halls of eternity? It’s a guiding light beckoning us through the suffocating darkness and reminding us that the path to courageous decisions, fierce love, and bold stories is the one least traveled.

There are beautiful stories unfolding around us. Sometimes it takes someone else pointing them out and a willingness on our part to let them do it. These are the ones worth listening to. Stories woven in redemption, built on sacrifice, forged by resilient hope, established through the grace of God. They call our stories into a much bigger one and open our eyes to the need for strength beyond our own if we are actually going to live out the storyline God has planned for us.

If you are having a hard time trusting God with an area of your life, take a look at the stories you are paying attention to. It’s one thing to hear someone out and another thing to let their experiences seep into your soul. The more intentional you become about the stories you listen to, rehearse in your mind, and repeat to others, the stronger you will be as a result.

Get around a couple whose marriage survived the storms. Don’t just ask their advice, let their story breathe hope into yours. Sit down with the person who navigated the loss of someone they love to discover solid ground again. Find the people who journeyed through painful seasons and emerged stronger on the other side.

It all comes down to choosing what stories are going to dictate yours.

I have a personal conviction that the greatest story ever told is going to be the one that shapes and governs my life. It is the story of eternity choosing to become finite, incomprehensible beauty being traded for rags, and perfect holiness sacrificing in order to love all that is debased and broken. We call it the gospel, the story of Jesus.

What story is shaping yours?