Why are we so fascinated by stories about ourselves? Is it narcissism? Or could there be some deeper, God-given impulse that draws us in this direction?
My wife has been catching up on some scrap-booking this summer, and our kids can’t get enough of it. They howl in laughter at the photographs. They beg us to tell them (and re-tell them) the old stories: about Cor’s after-dinner habit of serenading the family on the ukelele… about the way Olivia asked to have her coat buttoned up by saying, “Could you push my buttons?”… about the time that Elliot projectile-vomited on the sportscaster from Toledo’s ABC affiliate…. They’re not even the most-flattering images or stories! Still, the kids love to hear these epics and anecdotes starring them.
I’m really not all that different. I typically look for my face first, in a group photograph. My ears perk up whenever I hear someone mention my name in a social setting. I thrill to see myself tagged in social media. And, for goodness sake: I blog my own stories on my own website (and assume other people might actually be interested to read them)!
So what is the dynamo that powers this drive? Self-centered narcissism may certainly be a part of it… But I suspect that our fascination with identity stories and origin stories has its roots in a natural, healthy, inborn, cosmic quest for meaning and significance. Our lives are more than random coincidences. There’s a bigger, overarching story going on all around us — and it’s not just some impersonal narrative. We have roles to play in this story! According to Jesus, we are a vital part of God’s big story for the universe: “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit” (John 15:16).
What a privilege! What a thrill! To be chosen, included, commissioned, featured, and “immortalized” in such a great story… It makes sense that we enjoy even the tiniest glimpses of this phenomenon in other stories about ourselves. So let the stories be told! Let the scrapbooks be compiled. But let’s look to the bigger story, as well, and figure out how to faithfully live out our parts in that story…