Last night a female friend of mine from my seminary days introduced me through facebook to one of her friends. When her friend made his introduction, he then ask me, “What’s your story?”
Who we are is a reflection of the journey our life has taken. We are not a set of propositions but the integration of a variety of life experiences (stories) that form and shape us into people, not only individually but tribally. The stories that shape you were themselves shaped from other stories. Different tributaries in life flow into yours and redirect your path, making you into what you are today.
Your story, however, is one mini-narrative among a larger narrative in the culture in which you live. For instance, I grew up in the southern part of the US. Our narrative was shaped by things such as cotton, slavery, the civil war, religion, and college football. That narrative is different than a New York narrative which was shaped by Ellis Island, Chinatown and Wall Street.
When I moved from a Southern US experience to Delaware, I had to learn the narrative of this area, which itself was being recast as an influx of people from New Jersey and New York were moving into the area. In fact, for a while, if you were not “native” people did not consider you part of the area. A friend has told me that it may take a generation or two of your family living in parts of the Northeast to be considered “from” there. For me, it took two years to feel as though I was beginning to not only feel accepted but to understand the story that was written and was being written.
But that is part of a missional lifestyle and a missionary lifestyle. We must learn the stories of those whom we meet rather than imposing our story. That story can be found in their art, their recreation, and their food among other things. One of the items they eat here in the Mid-Atlantic is scrapple. Scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch concoction that is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then panfried before serving. Scraps of meat left over from butchering, not used or sold elsewhere, were made into scrapple to avoid waste. People in this part of the country swear by it, but though I’ve tried it, I do not eat it.
But scrapple has a history and that history is both American and German. Scrapple is arguably the first pork food invented in America. The culinary ancestor of scrapple was the Low German dish called panhas, which was adapted to make use of locally available ingredients, and it is still called “Pannhaas,” “panhoss,” or “pannhas” in parts of Pennsylvania. The first recipes were created by Dutch colonists who settled near Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. As a result, it is strongly associated with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and surrounding eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula. Because of the regional importance of the Mid-Atlantic to the history of this country, scrapple is part of the narrative of the founding of American and part of the narrative of life in the Mid-Atlantic.
Living a missional and missionary lifestyle requires us to learn stories but also to be story-tellers. When others see and hear our stories they learn about us, how we think, and why we do what we do the way we do it. God has moved into our life and our story is different as a result. Our story has changed and our path has diverged. We were nudged toward God and in our stories we get to nudge others toward him as well.
How has God’s story changed your life?
How can you nudge people closer to the story of God?
How do you discover the stories of others?