It’s the political season in the United States as I write this. Donald Trump and Former Secretary Hillary Clinton are running for the highest office in our land. Many men before these two individuals have held the office. And before you dismiss this as a political piece, I will provide you with some peace: This won’t be an assessment of either candidate, policies, or political stances for that matter. I want to tell of a grander story that I see happening here.
See, that is the problem I see with these candidates. They don’t have a grander story for our country right now. When I think of Presidents from the past and the Presidents that are remembered for significant things, it was because they looked at our country, assessed whatever state it was in, and believed it was capable of so much more. They saw the mess and didn’t let it cloud their ability to see the majesty and potential of the people they were chose to lead. You see those Presidents that were loved, admired, and celebrated saw a grander story for the nation. Something to aspire to; a future worth striving to attain.
I began thinking about this from my perspective and in my work. I work with students and young adults. I get the opportunity to watch as adolescents move from immaturity to maturity; from recklessness to responsibility. This is a breeze for some but often is a battle, fighting desires of their youth and the enticement of the teenage years. But, I know one thing: Students will never rise up to responsibility with out the space to soar and a grander story to achieve.
See, I have come to know this:
To help people seek something greater than their present, tell them a grander story of their future.
Bill Hybels says often of leaders that one of the primary jobs of a leader is helping a group get from HERE to THERE. There are two chief things to moving someone from HERE to THERE: 1. Create the case for why we can’t stay HERE and 2. Develop the vision of why THERE will be so good. No one will leave HERE if they think THERE is going to be a train wreck, not worth the effort to get from HERE to THERE, or too good to be true.
This seems so critical to me when it comes to leading students. Students get so many messages from culture that tell them they aren’t good enough, they won’t amount to anything, and that they are best off just sitting on the sidelines until the adults are done. The truth of the matter is we can’t do life without them and what students have to offer is far greater than many adults.
But, what dawns on me is the number of adults I interact with that have the same perspective. Whether it is the current election, the state of the economy, or the changing of the seasons. I find that, by and large, our culture has a bummer of a vision for itself and so rarely are people genuinely excited about the culture and society.
That needs to change.
The negativity that stems from a low view of our society only drives us further down and farther apart. But it will never happen if we continue to have a lame frame for our own story before it will ever bleed into our society.
This is so perfectly illustrated in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sagas. In each situation, the temptation to go back from where the hobbits came from was strong. Because it is easier to just let the world burn when you have the comfort of the Shire. The Shire represents living with whatever happens. The Shire represents a “meh” view of how things could be. Gandalf has a much different view of the situation. Gandalf has a view of Middle Earth as a truly peaceful place; a place of harmony and unity. However, it will never be that way so long as the chosen and capable hobbits continue to accept a “meh-view” of their life. They needed a grander story to tell.
So what does it take to have a grander story? I’m so glad you asked. Here are a few things that I believe will be a step in the right direction?
1. See the trees as the path to the grander story. Certainly you have heard the phrase “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” While that is a great phrase for making sure you don’t miss the majesty of the story, it can be overwhelming to try to navigate through the whole story if you never take note of the trees. The reality is that there is always a path through the story; a way the story is to be written. It might wind in many different directions, but there is always a way through the plot of a story. However, if all you do is look at the vastness of what you desire the story to be, you’ll never have the ability to navigate the trees as you trek through the forest. Tough things come and they often alter our direction, but that doesn’t mean that they have to tank you. Sometimes tough times are God’s way of changing our trajectory to a better way.
2. Remember the VALUE of the grander story. Sometimes when we are in the middle of the battle, in the middle of journeying through things, of battling in life, we can lose sight of WHY we are trekking through to a grander story. We can forget that when we get through this chapter, we will no longer be in the last chapter. Life will be different when we get to the other side of this chapter. So long as the story is getting written, each chapter is equally valuable. Keep pressing in and following the path. It is worth it, but it won’t be if you quit.
3. Take time to look back at previous chapters of the grander story. The chapter where you broke up with your girlfriend. The chapter where you had that fight with your mom. The chapter where you were in the car wreck. Every chapter is part of the your story. Looking back at those chapters and reviewing those chapters to gain insight on how to navigate the path of the rest of the story is critical. You can’t rise up to the grander story if you keep writing the same chapters over and over again. And never be afraid to go back to the chapters that aren’t so fun as well. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from losses; how productive pain can be for the long run.
4. Keep all the chapters, even the rough ones. The only difference between productive pain and paralyzing pain is how we choose to press through and respond to it. That is much easier to write than it is to experience, but isn’t it true? When you workout, you usually experience soreness. But the best thing to do is to do what? Keep working out regularly, regardless of the pain. The same is true with painful experiences in life. Will we rise above and let something refine us or shirk back and let something sink us? The rough chapters of our lives provide for us the reason to rise up to the grander story.
5. Help others rise up to the grander story. We work better when we aren’t the only ones working. Your life was meant to be multiplied and your story is being written so you can share it. The reality is that if you aren’t using your story to help others have a grander story or to rise above where they are, you are being selfish. Even if your story is currently full of pain, full of disappointment, full of discouragement. You might think, well I just need someone to help me edit this or fix the rough chapters. But often when we share the pain of our lives, God gives it purpose. So get out there and help others write a grander story in their lives.
If you want to see what this looks like in real life, talk to my friend Kory Lantz and ask him about his organization The Transformation in South Bend. The story of the Transformation and it’s presence in Keller Park a story of people coming alongside others and offering a different vision, a grander story, for life. I am so proud of my friend Kory and all that he and his team are accomplishing. Watch this video to see their heart and hear them put to words a grander story for a community:
So, what’s your grander story? How do you want to write a grander story? Leave a thought in the comments.