As humans we are shaped and live by our stories. My childhood was filled with the stories told to me of our family, by my grandparents and great-grandparents. Family stories told at family gatherings and around the kitchen table. Our family stories help us interpret how life is or how life ought to be and shape our identity as a member of our extended family.
One tradition, I remember the most in my early life was during the period in and around Memorial Day. As a family, we would travel to the variety of cemeteries where family members were buried. Many were graves of relatives who died long before I was born, but during these moments at graveside, my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents would tell me old family stories of the family members I never knew. My grandmother would often open up during these visits and tell me family stories, I believe, upon later reflection she probably regretted having told me, but they were good stories.
As a child, I was not always as attentive to remembering these stories as I wish now I had been. Many of the stories I do remember are the ones that were repeated multiple times. As I got older, I would often ask someone to repeat a story I could only partly recall. These were the moments, when I would discover my grandmother had second thoughts of having told me the story the first time. I often asked my parents to retell me some these stories, I had only vague memories of hearing and discover no one had told them the whole story.
We are naturally drawn to stories and once heard, we have a feeling that compels us to seek their conclusion, because stories are exciting. As we get older and enter the life of the community where we live, the church we serve, and the family we create, we gain our own personal experiences which are transformed into our own personal and family stories. As we gain significant life experiences, they begin to shape us and mold our faith and life and we, in turn, build them into our own stories. For example, I have told many stories over the years about my experiences of working as an addiction's counselor. The stories of those individuals who freely shared their stories and experiences confronting the struggles and challenges of recovery from alcohol and other drug problems helped me better understand how God works in the world and how these stories shaped my view of forgiveness, redemption, faith, love and grace.
You remember these experiences of your life, as a narrative. The impact these experiences have upon you helps to burn into your memory all the specific details, who was there, what was said, how you felt, the relationships that developed, the lessons you learned, the moments of grace and love you experienced and so much, much more. We turn everything into a story, in order, to make sense of life and our place within it. Our stories help us navigate our world, to understand right and wrong, be grateful for grace and love experienced and to provide meaning.