Battle of the Narratives, part 2.

“I see you’re making the best of a bad job. That’s right. You’ve been well brought up, you have. You’ve learned to put a good face on things.”
— C.S. Lewis (Puddleglum in "The Silver Chair")

"He's quite the Puddleglum." This terminology was part of our family lexicon...and you probably have your own collection of family-specific expressions. Our experiences growing up give us a sort of secret language with siblings and parents--inside jokes, strange phrases, knowing glances that relate to events we experienced together as kids.

One of my favorite childhood memories is the scores of books we read together as a family, including the now well-known Chronicles of Narnia. In The Silver Chair, book 4 of the series, Puddleglum is an unlikely hero--a slow-moving, pessimistic old chap his companions describe as a "wet blanket." No matter what occurs in the story, Puddleglum finds a gloomy explanation for it...although he comes through valiantly in the end.

Our last post pitched the inspiring story of Horation Spafford who chose a dramatically redemptive narrative in the face of overwhelming loss. We talked about how people can encounter the exact same circumstances in life...but interpret them in fundamentally different ways because of the story they choose in live in. This big idea is worth continued exploration.

Life is story!

Beauty, achievement, relationships—none of these things have practical meaning outside of the narrative we attach to them. This is why the narrative we choose is so powerfully important. Commerce, academia, athletics, religion, politics, art—all of these offer us a story with which to frame our lives. One of these stories may ring true…and sustain us for a season of life. Perhaps an entire life. Or not. 

Crisis in life—whether a mid-life crisis, a crisis of faith, a crisis of loss, an identity crisis—these are all an indication that we’ve been living in a story that is too small to contain our experiences any longer. Crisis rocks our world because it calls our whole story into question. Many of us reach a point in life where we need a larger story.

Every story has an author, a plot, and a cast of characters. Whoever authors the story you choose to live in—your parents, your professor, your pastor, or your stockbroker—that person will functionally take the role of god in your story. He or she will assign what is good, who is bad, and where the story is headed. There will be a villain, a hero, and a mission. And a character for you to play.

Personalities often determine the role we take in the story: the guy in charge, the funny girl, the responsible one, the struggling artist, the peacemaker, the smart one, the beautiful one. There's nothing wrong with any of these long as we realize it's just a part, just a script. It's not the real you.

So the real question in the battle of the narratives is this: Who do you trust to write your story and tell you who you are? Is it time for a larger story...and if so, what is it? What if you could start 2015 inside a better story--what would that mean in the new year?

Posted on December 8, 2014 .