by Jordan Miller-Stubbendick

The stories of our lives are both familiar and hidden. There are family stories that have been told so often that they become legends: stories of how people met, births, Christmases and ordinary days where something unusual happened. In my family, some of these stories include the Christmas that my brother and mom got my dad a puppy that he first thought was a stuffed bear, the story of my birth, and the day that we returned from vacation to discover that my cat had died while our neighbor was watching her. Often when we tell these legendary, familiar stories, we tell them in the same way every time, so others who know the story can jump in and continue with the same words we would have used. Stories are foundational to life.

Although we shape our own stories, the stories of our lives also shape us. They help us understand our families, our identities and what is important to us. Stories tell us important truths about faith, life, what we deem valuable and how we have come to view the world. They connect us with the past and give us hope for the future. Stories shape us as communities, nations and people of faith. In a very real sense, we are all made up of the stories that we accept and reject, that tell us who we are and who we are not. Stories are a gift and a heritage, a warning and a promise, a way to understand life itself.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses shares the words of God that will make up the story that defines the people of Israel, both then and now: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Israel’s story says that they are God’s people, that they are to love God with everything they are, and that they are to share this story with their children and among themselves, at all times and forever. This is a story that shapes human beings on every possible level. It has been told in the same words for thousands of years, becoming deeply ingrained in the very being of those who know and cherish it.

This cherished story shapes both Judaism and Christianity, telling us who we are and whose we are. It has become deeply ingrained in the hearts of countless people.

What are the stories that shape your life: the ones that you know and tell, and the ones that are a bit more hidden? How do you shape your stories? Do you have some stories that you cherish more than the rest?

What are they, and with whom do you share them?

The Rev. Jordan Miller-Stubbendick lives in Kenmore, New York, with her family and serves as pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Niagara Falls. Her work has been published in Coffee & Crumbs and The Village Magazine.

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.