In his latest book, TO BE TOLD, Dan Allender encourages readers to examine their lives in a search for the story that God is telling through their existence. Allender says we often don't know our own stories because we doubt their existence, dismiss their importance, or we're distracted.
"Too many people are missing their story because they're watching the stories of others. We live vicariously through television, sports, magazine, and talk shows. Such stories may occasionally educate us, but most often they sedate us. They free us from admitting that our own life is dull and lifeless. They attract us because they offer life without risk. They are deathly safe."
Fans of John Eldredge's writing, especially THE SACRED ROMANCE, will find similar themes of brokenness, revelation, desire, and narrative redemption here.
"Something must awaken us to the fact that we are asleep. And what awakens us is usually a moment of exposure when we see that the conventions that guide our steps and promise us a good life are nothing more than illusions."
"The stories told in most families are a kind of propaganda."
"You must listen to the heartache and hope that etched in the narrative of your life. And you must find the meaning God has written there."
"Your plight is your redemption."
"Desire is both our greatest frailty and the mark of our highest beauty."
Allender has a humble and disarming tone that is humorous and relatable. It can be hard at times to wade through the jargon of "story" --- feasting on story, editing together, writing your destiny … what does all that mean? But the effort to truly understand what Allender is getting at is worth it. In essence, he's trying to get people to remember. It sounds simple, but it's not given that so many people have a dysfunctional relationship with the past. Whether good or bad, it can be hard to deal with, and so people tend to forget. But by entering into the past, Allender says that we can understand the present and help write our futures.
"God is the Potter, and we are the clay. Even the word human --- derived from the Latin word humus, meaning "dirt" --- shouts loudly about our origin. We are dirt. The name Adam (Hebrew 'adama) means "red," the color of clay. God shaped, molded, and formed us to reveal something about himself. He is a Being who loves to reveal and who invites us to join the process of revelation by calling to ask, seek and knock. God always intended for his children to join him in completing creation. We are no inanimate entities that merely reveal glory but living stories that are meant to create glory."
In other words, by seeing and understanding the stories God is telling through our lives, we can be more alive.
TO BE TOLD will provide insight for just about everyone interested in living an intentional Christian life. In addition to his wise observations about life, Allender gets practical in his suggestions for knowing one's story, including fasting, prayer, and of course, writing. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a bit of a memoir-writing fad ensues. And frankly, if Allender is right, we'd be better off for it.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on February 15, 2005