I think when we say “sharing stories,” we usually mean telling them. Tonight, however, I mean it in a more literal sense: sharing ownership of our various stories.
Every few weeks I cycle back to the ever-burning question of what the heck I will do with my life. The most recent answer is, “Maybe I’ll get a PhD; maybe I’ll teach,” and I like than answer enough. But it could easily be something in publishing next month, or perhaps we’ll go back to urban planning. There’s always my lifelong dream of some kind of involvement in film (despite my lack of experience) or that need for a fair-trade-everything store that someone must fill, and it might as well be me, right?
Another recent question for me is do I want to concentrate pretty much on biblical studies or would I want to possibly get another degree that relates more to culture or spiritual formation or something more “practical,” in order to have something else to relate my biblical studies knowledge to. Tonight, as I pondered these things, an interesting desire quieted my other thoughts. “Perhaps if I were married to someone doing something more theology/culture-ish, something more practical, I would want to focus on biblical studies… because I’d still get to sort of be involved in the other through him.” Ignore the fact that it’s weird for me to think much about marriage at all (I admit, I thought about it probably too much in high school, but the last couple years of college, I was pretty uninterested in dreaming about the future). The thing I find intriguing is that somehow I apparently feel more free to choose my story if I have another story that’s going to be woven with mine.
Zooming out a bit, I think this is actually one of the beautiful things about all relationships/friendships — we enter each others’ stories. Even if I’m not a medical physicist or an academic or an editor or a producer or a therapist or an InterVarsity staff or a teacher, part of me gets to experience all these things through the stories of my friends. (Additionally, I have the opportunity to enter in to what it’s like to be Californian or black or bisexual or agnostic or a parent or depressed or an English major all through my friends’ stories.)
It’s not the same thing as being whatever yourself. But you learn a lot, and I think you have the opportunity to mourn and rejoice with them at the appropriate points. One particular area of rejoicing for me lately has been the way in which I can enter into others’ stories through my work. I write for my school’s office of Public Affairs, largely focused on bios of faculty and alums. With every story I discover something new and exciting about what our academic community is doing all over the globe. I feel like if I hadn’t already believed the church was up to any good, I couldn’t deny it at this point — I hear about too many people that are doing cool things or that are undeniably authentic in their faith, hope, and love.
And then I realize, hey, I guess this story thing is kind of the point of the church to begin with. All of our little stories joining a bigger narrative. And the existence of these many stories freeing us up to write our own — and not worry if we only complete a chapter by ourselves.
What this means for my life, I have no idea — I obviously still must choose my own adventure.
But at least I can know that there are thousands of others than can and will do some of the things I won’t. And I can work on practically any part of the big story I want. My calling is to the story, not to a particular career. But perhaps I’ll find I was made for a few specific job paths, as well. We’ll see.