When we visit my parents there are two priority destinations. First is to the M&M jar, always stocked with season-specific colors. (Coming soon is red white and blue.)
Second is to the utility room where there will be thirty books -big picture ones for my little nieces and stacks of hand-picked novels for everyone else. Mom’s a librarian, and she’s good. She knows the specific tastes of every reader in the family. Matt always immediately grabs a thick hardback and makes for the hottest seat in the house –in front of the fireplace in the winter and on the sunny front porch in the summer.
We know the value of a good story in our family.
So I was intrigued by John Piper’s observation, in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God. He says,
“Almost no child or adult being told a riveting story is thinking about himself at the moment. He’s drawn out of himself and into the story. It’s good mental health.”
Piper goes on to say their church is two blocks from a mental health institution, and all the people there have one thing in common.
“They’re all wrapped up in themselves. All mentally ill people are consumed with themselves.”
This gives new meaning to Paul’s instructions, when he says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 NIV)
We are to put a bookmark in our own story as a matter of habit, to invest in someone else’s adventure.
How to get into a new story:
- Read someone else’s story. I have made a habit of reading biographies and autobiographies of faithful Christians. These have expanded my own faith, increased my knowledge of God, and compelled me toward obedience to God.
- Give money or serve in some way to make someone else’s story less tragic.
- Ask someone, So what’s your story? Clue the person with your body language that you really, really want to know the whole thing. (Make sure you have a reputation for keeping stories confidential.) Very few people think anyone cares about their story.
- Read the Bible until you know God’s story by heart. Jesus says (and I paraphrase), “Whoever wants to be my disciple must be willing to put down his own story and find his role in mine.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)
We should evaluate our mental health.
If we find we are self-absorbed with our own problems, perhaps the most beneficial, self-profiting action we can take is to jump into the challenging, new plot of someone else’s life story.