The following is taken from a blog post that I wrote eight years ago:
Last week I finally had time to go with a friend to a part of my city where you can go from one culture to the next in a matter of a knock on the door. It was visiting day at the Women’s Centre where she works and in one afternoon I met:
- A wonderful, warm Iraqi couple, who were still in their pyjamas and who gave us delicious walnut and date cake.
- A Pakistani tailor’s daughter and her lovely daughters who like reading Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson books.
- Another houseful of kids and family also from Pakistan who were watching Madagascar III.
I thought about where some of these families came from: from thousands of miles away across nations and oceans, and how they now find themselves in the rather grim outskirts of a post-industrial city in Yorkshire and it reminded me that, if only we would stop and listen, we are surrounded by people with stories.
There have been times in my own life when I have looked around me and I’ve thought:
‘How did I get HERE?”
And I see again how our lives really are a series of (sometimes really bizarre) twists and turns that drag and pull and push at us until they have placed us in the present, in the Here and the Now.
I wish I was better at slowing down and asking people “what’s your story?” and then hanging around to hear it out.
And for me, perhaps one of the best things about stories is that when we watch or listen to other people’s real or fictional stories (on TV, at the cinema, in person) in some way we enter into that story, experience their emotions and, just for a moment, we are released from our exhausting introspection and we forget ourselves.
Some of these disjointed threads have been coming together in my head recently. In his book The Big Ego Trip psychiatrist and Christian writer Glynn Harrison puts these ideas, of life-as-narrative, like this:
“ If there is a God, and if he has revealed himself in the Christian gospel, then we have a story to live by. … This is God’s big story, and, as we remodel the plot line of our lives around its beckoning destiny, we discover the liberation of self-forgetfulness. Like happiness… true significance is discovered in aiming for something else.”Glynn Harrison, The Big Ego Trip
“Once upon a time I was born…” is how all of our stories begin…
…and “my time on this earth ended” is how they will all end.
But, as Glynn reminds us, if in we are in Christ, then it is His story we are living, His story that we are wonderfully swept up into. We can forget ourselves as happy extras to the Central Character, delighting as we gaze on Him and see Him at work.
And best of all, this is a story that ends like all good stories should:
“And they all lived happily ever after.”