by David Sanford
Stories are captivating. That’s true in every language, every culture, every setting, from hikers around a camp fire to gurus speaking with devotees in India. Think back to the last lecture or sermon you heard. Probably the only thing you really remember are the stories.
In recent years, much has been written and said about the drama of story and the role of the “big story” to address what’s missing in our hearts and lives. When it comes to screenplay writing, for instance, you first write the backstory for each character. All the characters are brought together into the big story for a reason. When we think of God’s “big story,” that’s true of every character—those of us who actively follow Jesus Christ, and those who aren’t yet.
Furthermore, about ten or twelve pages into the typical screenplay, the writer presents the “inciting incident,” the moment that propels the characters into the big story. In our lives, the inciting event is the moment a person starts thinking about the big picture, what we again call God’s “big story.”
Whatever you do with your neighbor or new friend, don’t try to trigger an inciting incident too quickly. Think of those first ten or twelve screenplay pages as your opportunity to listen, and to start to hear their particular backstory. Hear the whole backstory, no matter how long, and no matter how many weeks or months it takes to hear it.
Hearing someone’s backstory (almost) always come first. Listen, with love.
This guest blog post is an excerpt from the new book, Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think, © 2017 David Sanford and used by permission.