By Carol Kuykendall
A woman came up to me following my “Story Telling” workshop at a recent conference.
“I lost my story when my husband died a few years ago,” she told me, her voice wavering with emotion. “I struggled to find a new story…”
She reinforced my point about the times in our lives when we lose the story we are living. The unexpected happens. We take a risk and give up the old to try something new. We’re forced to move or find a new job. We find ourselves heading in a whole new direction and we’re faced with finding a new story.
Tucked into the bridge between lost” and found is often a faith-stretching experience where God is guiding us into a new story with new purpose. And I’m convinced that God wants us to recognize him in that place and share our experience with others, because our story makes him real.
“If you are going to be used by God,” writes Oswald Chambers, “he will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all; they are meant to make you useful in his hands.”
I told my own “new” story in that workshop. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and given a grim life expectancy. Instead of fighting that prediction, I let it shape a new story for me: to do what mattered most in the days I had and trust God to equip me every step of my journey even if that meant dying sooner than I expected.
But guess what? I didn’t die. I recently passed the five-year anniversary of my diagnosis which is a milestone in a cancer journey. And suddenly I realized that I’d lost my story about dying and needed to find a new story and purpose about living as a survivor.
My phone started ringing. People who had recently been diagnosed with cancer wanted to know, how I had survived so well.
At first I wasn’t sure how to answer. I didn’t have a nice neat list of do’s and don’ts or unique advice about diet and medications. My story was more about what God had done than what I had done. And I found myself telling the story about the many ways God prepared and equipped me in my cancer journey.
In seeking to encourage others, I discovered how life-giving and hope-bringing our stories are. Eventually, I found my new purpose in helping others find and tell their stories about the life-defining experiences in their own lives.
Discovering our stories usually begins with mining the “multitude of experiences” that have shaped us into who we are and that have revealed God’s new purposes for our lives. Here are some questions to trigger that digging:
When have you “lost” and “found” a new story in your life?
What helped you go from “lost” to “found” in that experience?
What did you learn about God and yourself in that time?
How might that experience make you “useful in God’s hands”?
When we shape our answers into a story and share it with others, especially those walking a path we’ve already travelled, we become useful in God’s hands.
Carol Kuykendall helped launch a Stories ministry in her community and is passionate about helping others find and tell their stories. She is a consulting editor for MOPS International, an author and co-author of nine books and writes devotionals for Daily Guideposts. With her husband, Lynn, she lives in Boulder, CO which (thankfully!) is within driving distance of her three adult children and their families.