by Erin Bird

I need to make a confession – I am an “Input” addict.

When I took the famous StrengthsFinder assessment test years ago, it came as no surprise one of my Top 5 “strengths” was Input. A person with a strength of Input is always reading, listening, and learning. (Unfortunately, having an Input strength doesn’t necessarily make one smart.)

I fear I might be the poster child for Input. For example, it is all too common for me to get lost in my News app, or go on an hour-long Twitter binge.

But then along came 2020. Almost overnight, every place I turned for my daily dose of Input seemed to yell at me. (Well, not “me” per se.) Podcast hosts, bloggers, “tweeters,” and even news articles seemed to be yelling about some “evil” group I needed to hate or screaming what I must or must not do. Suddenly, my normal sources for Input weren’t bringing me joy and personal growth. Rather, they were giving me anxiety, dividing me from my fellow humans.

So I found myself shifting from podcasts & Twitter to fiction books, primarily in audio form. (Thank you, Waverly Public Library, for access to the Libby app!) This simple shift has helped me rediscover just how much we as humans enjoy story. (How else do you explain the explosion in online streaming services?) We love our stories, whether in books, on TV, or on movie screens. Stories give us a way to “escape” from everyday life. But they can also embed truths or ideas we need to learn or consider as we navigate through the nonfictional world.

I don’t know when I will shift back to podcasts, but I feel like I am learning almost as much through Brandon Sanderson, Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), David Baldacci, Pierce Brown, and many more.

But this personal shift from podcasts to fictional stories has me thinking – what kind of story are we as people writing with our daily lives?

Think about it: When your life is over, the words shared about you at your funeral will reveal the story written through your life. So what kind of story do you want shared?

While I thoroughly enjoy a good mystery novel, I have noticed the stories that stick with me most are the ones where the main characters willingly sacrifice themselves in order to help others. Whether in fantasy, action, or young adult dystopian, this theme can be found across multiple genres. Why am I drawn to these stories? Because they point to the greatest story of all time.

The famous Gospel story tells us Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for pathetic sinners like me. While I didn’t deserve anything, Jesus joyfully went to the cross to redeem me by paying the penalty for my sin.

Yes, I realize this story is outrageous – yet it is nonetheless true.

The more familiar I become with this ultimate story, the more I have discovered that the people who let this story be the central part of their life story have the best stories at their funerals. But to have this kind of story shared through your life, you have to let God be the author. In other words, you have to sacrifice being the author of your own story so God can write something even grander.

So no matter where you are in your spiritual journey, I encourage you to surrender the pen and let God write a beautiful story through your life. Because when the Gospel story of Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection is the central part of your story, you will very possibly change the life stories of those around you.