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The value of a Story

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Our pilgrim ancestors believed in the worth of their life stories. Just like the story of the Pilgrim's Progress, the struggles of their daily life had larger meaning. Steve Isham, Australian Mayflower descendant and Elder, asks the question, what story do we inhabit today?

Dangerous Journey - A fine abridgement of Pilgrim's Progress, not just for children.

"We might be among the first generation of people who have no idea what we are doing here .... and no story to tell." said author and social critic Douglas Murray recently.

Not the Mayflower passengers. Our Pilgrim ancestors knew the story that they were in. Although they rejected some story-telling mediums, particularly theatre, because they perceived bawdy and idolatrous associations, none-the-less the Pilgrims were full of a sense of the worth of their individual life stories. Separatist diaries and accounts had all the elements of the great narrative tropes: A worthy adventure, daily life encounters redolent with larger meaning, travails, suffering, and impediments to overcome and especially the denouement -- a glorious destination and reward.

It is no coincidence that John Bunyan's life unfolds back in England commensurate with the Pilgrim's real life adventure. When Pilgrim's Progress was published in 1678, Plymouth was still a colony and when copies of that hugely popular book arrived in New England our forebears would read it eagerly in rapt identification with the plot and with the characters.

So what story do we inhabit? In what larger story is our own personal story embedded? Are our culture's contemporary story offerings time-tested enough to give our own individual life story adequate and ultimate meaning? And is there evidence along the way of where our story is going? Do we miss the hints in the midst of the story as to the consummation, the resolution of it?

Jesus in a few phrases encapsulates the nub of the grand Biblical narrative. (Luke 18:31-33) The Christ would be anticipated by the prophets, flogged , killed, and then -- oh glory -- risen from the dead. But "this saying was hidden from the disciples and they did not grasp what he said." All those hints in earlier chapters, but the disciples have a blind spot. Ah, blind spots. Do we recognise the essentials of the Big Story and see how it nourishes us as our Pilgrim ancestors did?

By Steve Isham Society of Australian Mayflower Descendants member & Elder, descended from Edward Fuller
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