I stopped in at the antique store near our house the other day. It's a quaint place; three old houses full of odd rooms and little nooks where one might find almost anything if one looks long enough. I've been there on several occasions, and I've always found numerous items that were interesting to look at, and usually one or two that I simply can't leave behind.
On this visit, though, I was struck with an unexpected sense of poignancy.
We've been through a lot of old items recently as we've gone through Grandma's household goods. Some of these are significant because they are deeply tied to the memories that I personally have of Grandma and Grandpa. Others provide a tangible link to the great-grandparents or other relatives who owned them.
There have also been many times when someone has asked, "Who did this belong to?" or "Who made this?" or "What in the world is this, anyway?" and no one has an answer. With some things, we just never thought to ask the questions. There were other things that we didn't even know existed until we unearthed them in some closet.
The reality is that much of an item's significance is tied up in its story. An object in which I would otherwise have little interest may become a valuable keepsake simply because of its story. Contrariwise, when an item loses its story, it loses much of its claim to significance.
This is why my jaunt through the antique store affected me the way it did. As I walked through the store, I saw many items similar to ones we had brought home from Grandma's house. I can scarcely think of an item more completely severed from its story than one sitting for sale in an antique store.
It was a house full of orphaned heirlooms.
Stories permeate our lives. Just as the hand-crocheted doily in the basket at the antique store was made by someone and came from somewhere, even so the day-to-day happenings of our lives do not exist in isolation. Everything we do and experience is shaped by and founded upon what has already happened in our lives, and is in turn the foundation that will form our futures.
Even as the small events in our lives work together to form a larger story, our entire lives themselves are pieces of yet another story. We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, just as those who come after us will build upon the foundation that we are now laying. In a very real sense, the stories of my ancestors that I never met are my stories, too.
But there is an even greater story. If one would question the importance of story to us as humans, he has only to look at how God has chosen to communicate to His people.
He could have shown what was accomplished by Christ's atoning death through a series of legal documents. He could have revealed His nature and character by giving us a systematic theology-- but He didn't! He told us a story-- a story of the good world that He made, of the arch-villian who introduced sin and death into it, and of the Hero who won redemption for God's chosen ones and will one day vanquish forever His doomed enemy.
And, the deeper we delve into this story of what God has done, the more we find that it is our story too. This is the story of where we came from. This is where we must turn to make sense of the brokenness in the world around us-- and to understand the deep brokenness within us. Here alone we find hope, for here we find assurance that for those who are in Christ, the story has a happy ending. Only in the great Story do our individual stories have any significance.
The person who does not see his life in the context of the work of God is in a far more pitiable state than any abandoned mementos of yesteryear. When we no longer see our lives as being directed by the wise, loving hand of our Father for His perfect purposes, the world is indeed a bleak place.
Unlike the antiques in the store, however, whose stories are lost forever, there is still hope for the lost soul trudging his self-absorbed way to destruction. This is the Story that cannot be lost, for it seeks out those to whom it belongs.