“We’re all Made up of Stories”


Jim Sheeler is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award for his book, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, which chronicles the painful process through which the United States Marine Corps assists families who have lost members on foreign battlefields. He is now a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado.  But he started out as an obituary writer.

In a fascinating obituary 2 interview with Brooke Gladstone on On the Media, he shared his philosophy of writing obituaries, by saying, “We’re all made up of stories.” As he interviewed families and friends about their loved ones, the stories of their lives came tumbling out. After getting the details of the person’s life, he always asked,” What did you learn from this person’s life?” and “What can I learn from his or her story to make my life better?”

As Apprentices of Jesus, we should be asking, “What kind of stories are people reading in my life?”  “What stories will people share about my life when I am gone?” “What can someone learn from me that will make his or her life better?”

As  Apprentices of Jesus, our story should be Jesus’ story. His story was one of grace under pressure. He brought forgiveness and healing wherever he went. He spoke the truth about the religious politics of his day. He spent quality time with people everyone else scoffed at or ignored. People sat on hillsides all day without food to learn from his wisdom. Joy radiated from his eyes. Children sat on his lap. Men left their lives to “walk in his dust” and listen to his teaching. He was in constant contact with his Father – on a remote hillside or in the midst of a crowd – listening for guidance. He lived and sacrificed – even his life – t for others. His was a life well-lived and well-remembered. Stories about him traveled the world and are told more than 2,000 years after his death.

We are called to be a peculiar people, distinctive, obviously different from the culture surrounding us. We are to be known by our love. Because we live in an unshakable kingdom, we know that no matter what happens to us, we are safe. We also know that everything  that can happen to us can be used by God for good. Therefore we can move from focusing on ourselves to focusing on others. Our story should inspire to people to ask for the reason we have hope.

In The Good and Beautiful Community, James Bryan Smith says, “On an average day, [your] personal kingdom will come in contact with more than a hundred people – [your] family and everyone with whom [you] interact. . . . Your life is your witness. You have something real, something you know to be true in your depths.  It has shaped who you are. You do not have to do  anything to witness to that life, and you could not hide it if you tried.”

obituary 3

If we can live like this, we can be confident that our obituaries will record the story of a life well-lived and well-remembered, just like our Master’s.

This entry was posted in Living as Apprentices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.