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Sharing our story

As we talk to our friends about our lives, we start to see themes that are common to us all as human beings. We live in Jesus’ world – and as St Augustine memorably put it, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. That means that the same themes occur and reoccur time and again: there are things that we all want, and which – in their way – signpost us to live in Christ.

Steven Reiss was an American psychologist who worked in the broad area of desire. He researched communities around the world and concluded that humans have 16 basic desires – things that we want as an end in themselves.

Acceptance

Personal Justice

Collecting (Things)

Physical Wellbeing

Curiosity

Power

Eating

Romance

Family

Social Contact

Honour

Social Justice

Independence

Status

Order

Tranquillity

Now why did God create us with these good desires? Essentially, there were to draw us into his design for humanity: caring for our own individual wellbeing, stewarding the environment, building relationships with each other, and resting in his love. All of these desires draw us into at least one of these dimensions of expressing our humanity.

And yet, mostly fully, every good desire that we have is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. 

This means, then, that we have at least 16 different ways of sharing the gospel – 16 ways in which we have found that Jesus satisfies our deepest desires and holds out their fulfilment when we see him face to face. It also means that, as these themes come out in conversation, we’re given a natural gospel framework in which to point in some way to Jesus and the difference he makes in what we all really want. Most people think that Christianity has little or nothing to say about what they really care about – but this shows that this is far from true.

In all likelihood, a couple of these desires will be important refrains in your life story. For me, it’s the desire to be accepted. At school, I’d do almost anything to be accepted – which led to me sometimes doing some silly things! But even when I did feel accepted, the feeling never lasted. I was never sure of where I stood. I remember reading Romans 1:6 a few years ago and feeling a little shot of electricity – you also are called to belong – and thinking: finally, here is an offer of the acceptance I crave. And it’s offered to me not on the basis of being excellent, but on the basis of Jesus giving himself for me. I still don’t find it easy feeling accepted in certain settings, especially when I don’t know people. But the knowledge that my welcome is secure because Jesus knows me at my worst and yet was willing to pay for my sin has freed me to be in those settings and not to just obsess about myself for the whole time. I am freed to look to the needs of others.

Because being accepted is such an important part of my own story, I often particularly listen out for that theme in conversation. And I’ll ask if I can share some of my story about how I’ve come to know an acceptance I can rely upon.

There are a couple of other deep desires that have been important to me too over the years – honour, personal justice, and independence amongst others. And so there are a handful of different ways – all true – in which I’ll tell my story. I try to be always ready to tell it when I can – sometimes in just three sentences, sometimes in a minute or so, sometimes longer, all according to the context.

Why not take one of these desires that you have felt most tenderly throughout your life, and think through how you could share your story. You could use this structure to help you frame it:

Introduction:

Growing up, how did you think this desire would be satisfied? Where did it take you? Provide a couple of examples.

Body:

How did the pursuit of this desire prove ultimately unsatisfied or unsatisfying? If you got what you wanted, how did it let you down?

Bridge:

How have the death and resurrection of Jesus challenged your perspective on the satisfaction of this desire? How did you come to realise this? How did this insight surprise you?

Conclusion:

How has Jesus changed your thinking and actions in this area today? Give a couple of practical examples. How could it make more of a difference?

Of course, sharing our stories isn’t an end in itself. So think about what the next step could be for someone open to exploring life more deeply? It could be an invitation to come to church – sometimes I ask ‘How would you like to see a whole community of people who are being shaped by this story?’ or ‘Come and meet my friends’.

Sometimes there’s an opportunity to take the conversation deeper, to ask ‘Can I ask you about this again?’ or move to a pint in a pub or a coffee in a café.

Sometimes we have the opportunity to pray with people – and I personally have been surprised and encouraged at how welcoming and responsive folk have been to this. We’re showing that God is real, that He wants relationship, and that we believe in the power of prayer.

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