Some years ago, one of my professors suggested that the way we tell our story reveals something about us. Eagerly I took notes, in hopes of unlocking the mystery of who we were and how we really relate. I’m sure there are many ways to think about these categories. I found them helpful:
There were 5 ways of telling our story—4 foolish and 1 wise.
- If we come at life as though it is a TRAGEDY, our mood will look something like this: “life is hard, but I will make it”. Even though this person’s worldview is one of a VICTIM, they get their identity from being a courageous survivor. Their ‘pull’ is for you to make their life a bit easier and support them in their need. They are not always obvious but rather may appear as one who nobly perseveres, doing what it takes to survive.
- The person who views their life as a ROMANCE approaches the world like it is an adventure. Carpe Diem becomes their cherished mantra. As they discover life and the wonder of who they are is revealed, their ‘pull’ is for you to notice, admire, and respect them. They get their identity from being a HERO–they are a unique star among the masses so take note. Their subtle (and not always subtle) demand is that you applaud them and recognise their value to the world and to you. This is not an easy person to relate to as they tend to fill the room with their ‘awesomeness’.
- Then there is the person who views the world as an IRONY. These are not only the Eor’s in life but the CYNIC who sneers at the pointlessness of life. They get their identity as the disillusioned dropout. They see life as absurd and live apart, standing in judgement. Their pull is for you tho join them in their detached sneer over all the silly people running through life like ants scrambling over a hill. These people usually come across as superior and indifferent and can’t be bothered with convention.
- Of course, this list would be incomplete without the person who views life as a COMEDY. Life, for them, is a party so let’s play! They flit though life keeping things light and happy, so their pull is for you to enjoy them on the surface and only tell them pleasant things (see Is. 30:10). This person gets their identity from being a CLOWN and keeping things pleasant. Their quiet demand is that you smile and keep things equally pleasant. The way they relate is quite shallow and not deeply engages with anything.
Before I give the final category, as I mentioned above, there are many other ways to frame this. The Enneagram is another, more comprehensive approach. In the end, all of us reflect these ways of telling our story–even the one labeled as ‘wise’. The real question is, are we self-aware enough to enter the process of living in repentance or are we too deeply ensconced in our myopia to see how we are not living out of the deeper passion for Christ that so powerful works within us?
- TRANSCENDENT DRAMA
This kind of story is full of fascination and excitement. It covers the range of emotion, never lacking in meaning and hope. This kind of story allows for mystery because we realize that the process of living in God is largely unseen.
In this drama, we do not lose heart because “…though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction (such things as disease, job loss, rebellious kids, loneliness, failure, divorce, fear) are achieving for us (in ways we often cannot see) an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
In the first four ways of living life (telling our story) mystery is seen as a bad thing—it’s hated. For example:
- Victims deny mystery by attempting to manage their lives.
- Heroes attempt to rise above mystery with only their survival in view.
- Cynics stand outside mystery by identifying its darkness feeling superior to it.
- Clowns avoid all questions of mystery trying to enjoy any reliable pleasures available to them.
Those who are willing to engage mystery will see their lives as a finite point within the context of a bigger story. And they will enter into this mystery with hope because they know they are loved (love re-defines us—e.g. Mephibosheth).
- To see our stories as a transcendent drama our mood will be to see it as a divine story in which we get to participate.
- While we seek to play our part as creatively as we are gifted, your part, if you choose it, is to discover your part. And then connect with us in telling this larger story of divine transcendence as if we were finely tuned instruments playing off the same score. Paul calls it unity in the body of Christ.
- We get our identity as one beloved—we are a valued member of the supporting cast and will relax in that reality.
- And because we are loved (and live in the experience of that love) we don’t need to demand anything from others but actually desire that they see us—We want to be known and actually want to know others.
- We will come across to others in grateful humility, centered and unthreatened.