The following is an excerpt from Jesse Eubanks’ new eBook “KNOWN: How to Connect with God & Other People Through Your Life Story” available as a free PDF download here.
It’s easy to forget our own story.It’s easy to forget our own story. Sometimes we forget on purpose because we’re ashamed of our story. Other times we rewrite history to make ourselves feel better about our choices in life. And sometimes we just find our story boring so we keep looking to the horizon, hoping a new chapter is coming soon – hopefully one that includes giant explosions and robot butlers.
A few years ago, I read a great book by author Donald Miller. While sketching out a plot line for a novel one day, he had a revelation about his own life.
When authors are writing fiction, they will create fictional backstories to give meaning and purpose to each character.When authors are writing fiction, they will also create fictional backstories to give meaning and purpose to why each character has their particular personality and why they’re in a particular plotline. Without these backstories, the characters aren’t grounded and their motives, beliefs and personalities lose all of their substance. The author will place nuggets of the character’s backstory into the novel to expand and deepen the story. The key moments in each character’s backstory are known as turning points. They are critical moments in the life of the character that shaped them for better or worse. They explain the Who and Why of each person.
Every human being has a backstory, too.Miller’s revelation was that every human being has a backstory, too, and that these stories explain their motives, beliefs and personalities as well.
Knowing our own life story is essentially composed of two steps. First, we have to know the key moments in our lives that shaped us and second, we have to know the emotion that goes with that memory. These are our turning points.
We have to know the key moments in our lives that shaped us and we have to know the emotion that goes with that memory.Let me give you an example. When I was 19, I moved to California to be part of an urban missions program during which I lived in an inner- city neighborhood and volunteered full time helping to build homes
for low-income families. I was involved in the life of a church in my neighborhood (where – for the first time ever – I was a racial minority) and lived in a small apartment with other Christians. I developed deep friendships with people who were from a different culture than me and in turn these friends showed me a lot about myself and Jesus. It was an amazing and positive experience. That was a turning point for me for a variety of reasons. First, I had never moved away from my family before. In many ways, it was my first real experience of stepping out into the unknown world of adulthood. Second, my faith was on life support when I arrived. I wasn’t sure what I thought about God or Jesus at that point. Living and working among the urban poor revitalized my faith and love for the Bible and made me want to give other young adults a similar experience. That is why I started Love Thy Neighborhood. This is a positive turning point in my life story.
It was truly awful for me as a kid. I felt scared and confused. I also felt abandoned.However, I can also remember a time that was painful for me. I was a small child and my parents had been divorced for a few years. It was a very confusing experience for me as a kid to see two people I loved so much hate each other. I have one memory in particular that involved my parents and their significant others yelling at each other in our front yard. It felt like a professional wrestling match. I kept waiting for someone to grab a metal folding chair to finish off their opponent. It was truly awful for me as a kid. I felt scared and confused. I also felt abandoned. Suddenly, my parents didn’t feel safe anymore. This made the world a scary place. These feelings of abandonment haunt me in various ways to this day. I can trace a lot of my anxiety in this area back 30 years to this memory. They call them scars for a reason. This is a negative turning point in my story.
Our real God is a part of the real stories we’ve lived.It’s important that you know your own story and the emotions that go along with each major event in your life. If you don’t do this, you can never know yourself and you’ll never understand God’s lifelong relationship with you.
Sometimes people want to skip this step. Please don’t. If we can’t acknowledge our joys and our sorrows, we can’t really acknowledge God – because God says we will worship him in spirit and in truth. Acknowledging the events of our life story is part of the journey toward worshipping in truth. Our real God is a part of the real stories we’ve lived.