Shaped By Our Stories

Shaped By Our Stories

A helpful exercise for leaders and participants of small groups

Paying attention to our story is one way to exegete the movement of God in our lives. The Bible is replete with stories, hundreds of mini-dramas putting God's work on display amidst the good, bad, and ugly narratives of our lives.

As I coach leaders, we look at three things: their story, their soul, and then their strategy for moving forward in life, work, and ministry. Here are some of the things we might look for in a story.

Finding Truth in the Story

By unpacking our life story we see the truth about God, our actions, and the world around us. How do I respond to God? Who is he? How do I engage the world?

By understanding how I act in the world, I understand what I really believe about God and understand how I view myself. Do I withdraw in conflict, make decisions on the fly, act without faith? Look for trends and themes in your actions—what do they tell you about your real perception of God and your world? Then compare your story to Scripture, God's Story.

Finding God in the Story

Once you see the truth about how you engage God in the story, take a closer look at how God has been working—preparing your way, protecting you through the prayers of others, removing obstacles, revealing his nature and your character, and providing his power and presence. His hand is everywhere, and you will see it if you are looking. The result is faith and confidence in a God who is always at work.

Finding Redemption in the Story

What are the redemptive aspects of the story? You cannot find them unless you see the Truth in your story and the hand of God in your story. You must be honest about sin and failure, disobedience and neglect, oversight and blindness. When I enter into these dark and unsightly places, a beautiful warm light of grace and mercy shines through. Like grace under fire.

I experience healing, recovery, forgiveness, and I see the opportunities to separate the gold from the dross and give it freely to others. A broken soul is a holy soul. So take the risk. The darkness has evil power only if you enter it without a Lamp.

Finding Hope in the Story

Now that we find redemption, we have hope. The evil that has corrupted us, or into which we have stumbled, may not be forgotten but it has been conquered at the cross. And we now find the flow of the Holy Spirit moving in us, calling us to higher ground and into the redemptive drama of others.

Most people I meet with lack hope. They wonder what the future holds, and whether God will keep them forever chained to their past. Redemption leads to hope.

Finding Community in the Story

As our heads rise above the muck and mire of self-destruction and mourning into the light of grace and truth, we become available to others. And we begin to see that, all along, others have been used in our redemptive narrative.

We are reminded there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. That's a lie, the epitome of self-deception. All life is communal and requires collaboration. So we look at the role others have played in our lives, and the impact we have had in theirs. The communal nature of our story helps us clarify who we are—and who we are not. By observing the work of others in us, we see how our weaknesses are accommodated and our strengths are leveraged.

So take some time again this week to "mine" your story, for it is God at work in you for the sake of others and for his glory.

Story on!

—Dr. Bill Donahue, Ph.D., is author of many books, including Leading Life-Changing Small Groups. Article excerpted with permission from

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