Let me tell you a story.
Once there was a girl. She was beautiful and kind, quiet but strong. She suffered and endured rejection, but she overcame through her own inner power and courage. Those who rejected her were forced to acknowledge her worth, and she was universally admired.
Her name was me.
Stories We Tell Ourselves
Self-centered? Yes. Cliché? Absolutely. It might be the worst story I’ve ever written. But if I’m honest, that’s the kind of story I want to tell myself. I want to be the protagonist of my own story. I want this life—no, the entire universe—to be all about me. It shows in the way I think, the way I act, the way I treat my family and friends, the way I spend my money, and the way I invest my time.
I’m not just telling myself this story, though. Especially as a teenager, I’m surrounded by messages that feed my natural inclinations—inspirational quotes on Instagram, text posts on Pinterest, even some of the songs on my Spotify playlists. Today’s culture commands teenagers to believe in ourselves. It demands we take the reins of our own lives and assert control over our destinies. It tells us:
- You are enough.
- You don’t need anybody else.
- Life is about doing and having what makes you happy (and this thing will make you happy! Special sale, today only!).
- If you do good things and treat people well, your life will have purpose and meaning.
- You are the most important person in your life.
I’m convinced every one of us views life through the lens of a narrative. We all see ourselves as part of a story.
But the stories we tend to tell ourselves are all wrong.
Story He Tells
It started back in Eden. The serpent wooed Eve with a false narrative—one that put her at the center of the universe (“You will be like God!”) and promised both pleasure and power (Gen. 3:5–6).
Eve didn’t find the fulfillment she looked for when she ate from the tree. Instead, every one of her descendants tastes the bitter fruit of that decision. The false narratives (you can be like God!) will never fulfill. The stories we tell ourselves (I am the most important! I am enough!) will never satisfy.
But God tells a different story. In the pages of the Bible we find a narrative written by the Author of our world. He’s the narrator, the protagonist, the conquering hero, and the innocent sacrificial victim all at once.
It’s the story of a perfect world ruined by an evil villain. It’s the story of a promise, given after our first parents chose a false narrative, that a hero would come and suffer and make things right. It’s the story of how the Creator became a man and sacrificed everything, dying only to emerge victorious over sin and death itself. It’s a story with an ending yet to come—a resolution where everything is made new and tears are no more.
And this story will satisfy, because it’s true.
Our Place in This Story
But what’s beautiful is that we get to be part of this story—not as the main characters, not as the saviors of the world, but as recipients of surprising grace. We are the sinners needing redemption. We are the damsel in distress. We are the ones who get saved.
We also have a purpose (every character does, in a good story). Our purpose is to live for the One who has saved us, to make it our “ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to him” (2 Cor. 5:9). We get to participate in our God’s glorious plan, founded before the ages of the world. We have the privilege of fighting in a cosmic war on the winning team.
This is the story that should define our lives.
We must let our lives be shaped according to the contours of this true story, not the false narratives our world throws at us—especially as teenagers.
We must acknowledge our place in it and seek to live it out. We must let our lives be shaped according to the contours of this true story, not the false narratives our world throws at us—especially as teenagers.
So how do we do that? The answer: we need to immerse ourselves in this story, so that the truth of who God is and who we are and what he has done takes over our lives, permeating every corner of our beings. We need to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures.
Fellow Teens, Study Your Bibles
Teenager, how do you view your time in the Word?
For too long I saw daily Bible reading and Bible study as part of some contract with God. If I did it often enough, for long enough, and well enough, then God would love me. Then I would be a good Christian.
But that’s dead wrong.
What if we changed the way we looked at our Bibles? What if we devoted ourselves, heart and soul, to learning about this great story of which we’re a part? Most importantly, what if we dedicated ourselves to getting to know the writer of this story, the Author of our lives? You see, unlike any human author, he has written himself into his story. He has spoken, made himself known, and invited us to a personal relationship with him. We don’t see him face to face yet—only “as in a mirror” (2 Cor. 3:18). And that mirror is his Word.
As a literature student, I study great stories. But all of them pale in comparison to the Bible. What if we took the same tools we use to study great literature and applied them to God’s Word?
Serious Bible study isn’t something hidden away, reserved for your pastors and elders. It’s a call to invest in the Word, to come to it humble and ready to learn. It’s a call to let the greatest story in the universe invade your life.
Yes, it can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why we have the church—pastors, teachers, and mentors who can encourage you, keep you accountable, and point you to good resources. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit—the very God who wrote the Bible who lives inside you to guide and give you wisdom.
Come to the Lord in humility and ask him to help you know him and understand his Word. Every story has to start somewhere.