the idea of story

My boys love to tell stories.  I don’t mean lies; I’m talking about real stories from their life.   They love to recount a funny moment in Myrtle Beach or the way Cade talked to the old ladies in the grocery store when he was a toddler.  They each have such a distinct way of telling stories that I’m certain if I were to read word for word a story dictated by one of my children, I’d be able to tell who told the story.  Colin and I have brains that are wired so very differently and I can’t help the actual, literal eye roll and heavy sign that I involuntarily make when he begins a story.  I know it’s not nice but I swear I can’t help it.  His stories are intricate and laden with details meant to paint a vivid mental picture, but he describes things in such a spatial way that all the details are lost on me.   I have no idea what is happening and I’m praying for a monsoon to begin at that very moment so the story will stop.  When I pick him up from school on gym days I have been known to fake a phone call the entire drive home just so he doesn’t try to explain to me the new game they played in gym because it will take 47 minutes for him to set the scene and he hasn’t even gotten to the play-by-play that ends with him winning.  Jesus take the wheel.  Anyway…I digress.    

I’ve been thinking about the idea of story.  I’m not sure if it’s a common phrase outside of the religious community, but I often hear my church friends talk about their own life as a story.  They say things like “starting a new chapter in my story” or “inviting others into my story” or “owning my own story.”  All of those lines allude to the fact that each of us live a bunch of days that string together like a story.  Much like the main character in any story, whatever we do consistently over time develops our character.  If I want to be known as wise then much of my story would involve surrounding myself with wise people, seeking advice from the right groups, and making careful decisions.  If I want to be thought of as resilient then over and over I’d look for ways to be tough and to keep growing even when faced with adversity.  The beauty of this idea though is that I don’t have to get it right every single time.  Consistency over time doesn’t demand perfection.  Consistency just looks for an even flow in the same direction over a long period of time.  Steady and reliable, with continued forward movement.

As we head straight into the teenage years in front of us, I need to continue to remind myself of this.  We have already had some heated discussions where I can’t even fully spit out the phrase “What were you thinking…” without almost laughing because it is so painfully obvious that no thought was used (wasted?)  on that decision.  Remembering that one mistake doesn’t undo the years of responsible behavior is helping me to be able to offer grace instead of responding in anger or frustration.  (Don’t misread “grace” as the same as “no consequences” because they are not synonymous.)  We talk about character and reputation a lot these days at my house.  I want my boys to understand that their habits over time tell the story about who they are.  I’m hoping I can help them shift their motive from ‘stay out of trouble’ to ‘tell a consistent story’ as they begin to understand that their decisions over time develop into their character.  I know they won’t get it right every time and that’s okay. We have a lot of teenage years ahead of us to watch their stories unfold.  I hope and pray they will be stories that tell all about the God honoring, kind, compassionate, wise, gentle, respectful men I know they can become.