Andy Frost’s book is centred around the idea that every life tells a story and that we are all searching for an underlying narrative in our lives. He says that we are ‘shaped by the wider stories we find ourselves in’. He outlines three stories which often seem to underpin how we experience life and how we react to our circumstances: Happiness, safety and significance.
'Three stories often seem to underpin how we experience life and how we react to our circumstances: Happiness, safety and significance.' Book Review of the wonderful #LongStoryShort by @andythefrosty @SPCKPublishing Click To Tweet
The ‘happiness’ narrative is all about pursuing things which make us feel good and enjoying everything that is on offer in life. We see memes about squeezing every last drop out of life and taking pleasure from all that we can, because life is short and we might as well get joy out of it. This resonates greatly with me, having just written a book about contentment where I too have explored this ‘narrative’ that society and sometimes even church presses upon us – the pursuit of happiness. The problem with it is that we never quite reach it. We arrive at a place we think might make us happy – perhaps a great career, losing of weight or a new relationship – but it doesn’t quite fill us up as we hoped, and the messages we get are always there is more. Keep pushing for it. More. More.
The story we sometimes weave of ‘safety’ is to do with fear. ‘The world is a scary, messed-up place and the aim of the game is to try to make ourselves as safe as we can.’ So we prepare for the worst and hide ourselves away, we spend time and money on protecting ourselves and our loved ones and the fear of the unknown becomes a controlling force in our lives.
The third story is to do with the desire to leave our mark on the world. We feel that our lives should count in some way, that there has to be some significance to our lives. Even if our existence is an accident, we should still be able to create some meaning in some way.
All of these narratives fall short. The happiness story leaves us empty and craving more. The safety story leaves us fearful and living under a cloud of worry. The significance story leaves us desperate to be someone, to justify our existence in a hostile world. None of these stories give us an overarching hopeful shape to our lives. Andy goes on to give an outline of what he calls ‘the God story’ which he believes is a story which contains all of us and imbues us with glorious hope and life in its fullness, instead of leaving us empty, fearful and useless.
I love the section on this. The author has described this bigger story with honesty and beauty, weaving in parts of his own story, and cannot but help leave the reader in a hopeful place, captured by the overarching narrative of God. ‘The God story that we find in the Bible begins with God and ends with God and his people’, he says (p67). The story was always going to be first about God and then about us, and putting ourselves at the centre of it hasn’t always worked out so well. Instead, God offers a different way…
The story was always going to be first about God and then about us, and putting ourselves at the centre of it hasn’t always worked out so well. Instead, God offers a different way…
We live between the beginning and end of this great and glorious story. We lived balanced on a point of the now and the not-yet, living in pain and brokenness in the now while we catch glimpses of the not-yet. We’re invited to play our part in this story to end all stories, and our stories can then be lived in a happiness which isn’t necessarily happiness as the world would think of it, but instead a peace beyond understanding; and a lack of fear; and a sense of the greatest significance, because we are created for something. We are not useless accidents of existence, but God’s creation, imbued with God’s image.
I’ve found this little book a helpful and at times very profound read. As a writer myself I’ve always gravitated to the idea of our lives being framed by story, and this book puts that into words in a way which is full of depth and hope.
I’m so excited by this book I’d love to give away a brand new copy! If you’d like one, just sign up below to my list so I can choose a name from there at random (probably after the holidays!) Plus, you’ll get my free e-book – which is also about a great story (a bible study about Beauty and the Beast) out of it. What’s not to like? 😊
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