Stories: they are Different, yet so much the Same.
They are best, however, when they are relatable.
The good ones will grip one’s attention and transport your spirit. An enthralling story, by design, has integral pieces and chapters that will take you high and bring you low. It will make the most use of your imagination, rely on your sympathies and sense of justice, arouse your humanity, and the state of your soul will react to it. Most stories end well, and most of us find those endings the most satisfying. They feel right. And, if a story doesn’t end well, we, typically, feel as if there should have been more to that story.
The longing for a good story is engrained in us, long written on our hearts, and we all truly want that happy ending. Where all, in the end, is right.
This is true, as well, in reality.
In fact, it’s the stories of reality which captivate me the most. Why would that be? The accounts that come from our own lives certainly don’t promise to transport me to a faraway land of unicorns and dragons (thankfully). Nor do they give me the security of flipping pages and safely being the one reading.
No, it’s because these stories are our real occurrences. Existent. Valid. Touchable.
Our stories are deeply personal, naturally, and they have all the components of a good narrative – best yet, they’re not fiction. There’s the real struggle, the miracles, the loss, the love, the wickedness, the hope. It’s all real experience.
Yes, every reality, every life, is a really good story.
I DO NOT SAY THAT LIGHTLY.
Each of us, in varying degrees, has been touched and formed by beauty and truth, depravation and brokenness, love and the lack of it. Interestingly, the effect of these highs and lows on our lives also varies. Some people seem to become more resilient, some more gentle, some very disturbed, some are great overcomers, and some have been lost. We all have our own story.
I wonder: what is the difference in why and how our lives turn out? Faith? Success? Mentorship? Personality? Affluency? Grit? Is it even quantifiable? Perhaps.
The experts are certain to say that there are “<insert number> Steps that Will Change Your Outcome”; or, “Do <this> to Ensure a Happy Life”. – and we spend billions to fix ourselves. So, why do so few achieve their promised results? I’m sure the experts have the answer in their newest upcoming book: “If My Last Formula Didn’t Work for You, Buy This Book”.
In reality, there isn’t anything this world offers that guarantees a happy ending.
Our individual paths are, however, heading in the same direction, and toward the same reality.
See, while someone may seem to be an achiever, they are also suffering from some brokenness inside of them. Some element of their story that transgressed, and it made a mark; a wound.
Although each of our stories and outcomes is so different, there is yet a sameness. We are all broken. This is our collective state. It unites us regardless of any other factor in our lives.
Brokenness gives us commonness and eliminates all hierarchy under the heavens.
We are united in our individual struggles, for they are one in the same. Grief and pain are relative; there is none that outweighs the other, though it may seem so. We all “suffer it with our whole heart”, as Maria Trapp writes.
If we have eyes to see this realization, doesn’t it make us more relatable to one another, and doesn’t that, then, increase the sympathy and compassion we ought to extend?
I am broken. I am common.
I have parts of my soul that are beautiful; that are as they were created to be. Those parts have clear vision. They see blessing, and they breathe hope. There are portions that have picked up residue and baggage, roll along a bit lopsided, a bit weary. Then, I have parts of my being that are dark and ugly. Parts that, when I am not being vigilant, lie unnoticed for a time, feeding off of all the ugly in this world, until they burst forth in iniquity.
I listened to the latter part of a commencement speech by Lou Holtz which stated that a rule of life says “if we are not growing we are dying”. It’s true. No one lives a static life, where you are remaining the same; keeping up the “status quo”. But, it’s not as simple as growing or dying. No, we are allowing restoration to happen to ourselves AND we are allowing more vice to take hold. Both more or less depending on our state and revelation in life. It’s a constant and ongoing battle.
To equip ourselves, we must seek ultimate Truth in faith and the wisdom of others. We need to examine our conscience and forgo any patterns that cause injury; mindfully and intentionally make choices that form virtuous habits. Offer up our brokenness, as well as extend forgiveness; pursue conversion and reformation. We must allow our Self, our former self, to die. And that is to live.
Our common brokenness is also our common reason for hope.
Though our stories inevitably do not end up the same way, we have the common Hope that they can.
Because we, each of us, is a part of the greatest story ever told. And we know how it ends.