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Telling Your Whole Story

Margaret and I were walking downtown Chicago last week after a long day of conference performing, attending, and arranging. For me, the highlight of Story was having the chance to share the stage and a dinner with my mentor, Dan Allender.
When I was telling my very good friend, Jarrod, about the week, he said something interesting:
“Not everyone gets a chance to have their past revisit them.”
You see, four years ago life looked very different than it does now.
Not too far from where the Story conference was being held, four years earlier I was curled up in a ball on the floor of my apartment literally shaking with anxiety. It was the “you-should-probably-go-to-the-emergency-room” kind of anxiety. I eventually did. My life was coming undone as I seriously debated taking a hiatus from a career in acting where I was making money, or at least paying the bills (no small feat either way), and going to a virtually unknown school for virtually unknown reasons.
Some of you already know the story.
I ended up calling my agent asking for a couple of years off and then proceeded to stuff my ‘99 Saturn with everything I owned. When the car was packed, M and I set off on an epic journey through the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains, until we had landed in that tiny corner of the country where plaid shirts and coffee shops grow in between sheets of mist and rain.
For the next two years, I wrestled with that same invisible force Jacob fought. In a way, we both won.
Two years after that, I found myself in a job I never thought I’d have, doing work I never really thought I’d do. Then two more years later, I’m standing on a stage delivering words I couldn’t have written four years earlier, influenced by the man who was about to speak.
After my bit, Dan Allender (who I literally cannot have more gratitude for) got up and spoke about the story of Hagar. In the end, the questions God asked Hagar and the ones Dan wanted us to consider for ourselves were these:
Where have you come from, and where are you going?
When I think about the last four years, it is tempting to use language like, “I used to struggle, but now I don’t.” Or some version of how I am no longer dealing with my past, because, well, it’s the past. Often in the Christian life, we give ourselves a false sense of what it means to have a past we don’t love and a present without our former “struggles.” As if we can somehow disembody ourselves from our past even if we no longer “do” some of the things we used to.
What Dan was trying to say with his talk and what I’m trying to say to you is that we do our story and ourselves a great disservice by not holding onto our past in the midst of the present as we, at the same time, hope for the future.
Most of us experience the present in one of two ways – we stand in the present no longer like our former selves, or we stand wishing we were someone/some place different. Neither stance is helpful, nor is it really true to our story.
Where have you come from, and where are you going?
Understanding this question means that we attempt to stand in the present, while holding onto our past, while simultaneously reaching for the future. We are meant to hold both at the same time, you see. When we don’t acknowledge this fact, something tantamount to our story becomes terribly inauthentic.
To put a point on it – we don’t tell our story very well.
Therefore, we must tell the whole truth, which means telling our whole story. If we don’t get comfortable doing that, how do you think we’ll tell a story like the gospel – the most paradoxical one of them all?
The gospel isn’t yes or no, black or white, male or female, and neither is your story.
It is both/and.
It is the Kingdom now and not yet.
It is life and death.
It is darkness with light.
It is faith, and then in the very same breath, doubt.
So, may you tell your whole story, may you stand in the present holding both your past along with your future, and may you feel the sweetness of the full circle.

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Blaine Hogan worked as a professional actor for nearly 12 years before he took a sabbatical that led him to Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, WA. While in Seattle he received a Masters in Christian Studies focusing on the intersection of art and faith. He currently works for Willow Creek Community Church as a Creative Producer creating contexts and spaces for people to experience God using multimedia, movement, and performance art. He writes about ideas, hope, and the creative process on his blog: www.blainehogan.com and you can follow him on twitter: twitter.com/blainehogan.