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Are You Caught in a Small Story?

“Your lives aren’t small but you’re living them in a small way…The smallness that you feel comes from within. Live openly and expansively.”  2 Cor. 6:13    We are all writing a story with our lives. So, how do you feel about your story so far? Does it have enough adventure…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

“Your lives aren’t small but you’re living them in a small way…The smallness that you feel comes from within. Live openly and expansively.”  2 Cor. 6:13 


We are all writing a story with our lives. So, how do you feel about your story so far? Does it have enough adventure and romance in it? Have you risked enough? Is your story part of a bigger story?

Some of us are caught up in a small story. We have become self-absorbed – our lives revolve around meeting our own needs.

In Florida, many retired men have organized their lives around hitting a little white ball into a hole in the ground. I like golf, but I wouldn’t want to build my life on a story that small. Some of their wives have organized their lives around shopping for things they don’t need. And you have to ask, isn’t there a better way to live?

We all sense that there is a bigger story. Our modern myths point to it. Good versus evil. People in bondage needing to be set free. You see those themes play out in comic books and in the movies based on them. They make you ask the question, “Isn’t there more?”

The people of Corinth were living a small story and Paul called them out. He told them, “your lives aren’t small, but you are living them in a small way.”

Our lives are not small!

We have just one life to live. Organize your life around meeting your own needs and you may lose the plot.

As a senior in college, I was living a relatively small story. Then I heard about a great tragedy occurring in Cambodia. A nation was being put to the knife. Millions where starving or being murdered.

Something had to be done. It was a story being played out half a world away, but God was asking me to be a part of it. So I got on a plane and flew into a future that he alone could define.

And today, all around us, we are not short of injustice. Widows and orphans suffer because no one will come to their rescue. Who will set aside their own small story and take up such a cause? The Bible calls it true religion, but perhaps it can be more readily understood as God’s story of justice and redemption.

Live openly

So how do we live a bigger story? Paul encourages us to look at a bigger picture and live “openly and expansively.” Openly implies that you decide to get rid of the secrets that keep you bound up inside. Who needs to hear them? Call them up today.

Openly also implies that you take down the barriers you’ve erected. For example, the barriers of self-protection and isolation. Last year I realized that my life was beginning to feel narrower. I decided to press into community. I began looking for new ways to share.

Openly also implies that you share what God has entrusted to you. Are you better off than most? If you are privileged and have resources flowing into your life, you can either become a stagnant pond, or a fountainhead.

Better to decide to be a life-source for others. Why not decide to be more generous in sharing your resources?

And recognize that it’s not just about money. For example, we steward the lives of others too. Parents need to be more generous in sharing their kids with a world that needs their help. Realizing that they may be caught in a small story, young people need to generously invest their lives in a greater purpose than themselves.

Live expansively

We are also called to live expansively. When you expand you go to another level. You increase scope. You take what you’ve got and you invest it in others or give it away.

Jesus shared a parable of three men who were entrusted with bags of gold. Two invested them and earned a 100% return. They lived expansively. One dug a hole and buried his gold. And of course, it did not go well for him when his master had an accountability conversation.

A great example of someone who lives expansively is Bob Goff. He is a constant giver. He gives his time, his money, and his imagination to those who show up on his doorstep with needs. When you meet him for the first time, he hugs you. When you talk to him, he listens attentively and assumes that the answer to your question is “yes.” People come away from talking to him refreshed.

Yet living expansively when you feel poor or orphaned can be hard. So many people have been deeply wounded – abused even. They fall into depression and habits of self-preservation. They begin living small stories and may never learn the secret of expansive living.

I have older relatives who are closing out their lives in different ways. Some have lived expansively – always looking for ways to give away what they’ve been entrusted with. Even as they battle for life, they continue to give.

And others have lived a small story. They cling to the stuff they’ve accumulated. They have regrets, but their self-absorption strangles their spirit.

What kind of story are you writing with your life? It’s a good day to take stock and choose to live more openly and expansively. This brilliant video from Francis Chan illustrates the point.

Comments (10)

  • Jen – your story is really quite a large one, and it’s being written with lots of underlines, itallics and bold face!

  • Thanks Seth. This article is huge. I enjoy helping others discover their bigger story. This past month, after over 5 years as lead pastor, I resigned without a job because I knew that that season of the bigger story in our life was complete. I left in faith obviously, others call it something else. The other day I was at a coffee shop and God was asking me to live openly at prayer time no matter the cost (I was at a table with 2 possible employers). Giving prayer requests, I said, “Me? I’m harboring disbelief, you can pray for me about that” – this coming from a guy who quit without a job. I couldn’t believe I had said it out loud! But I left there so refreshed that their money didn’t matter to me. Three days later, I got the bigger story job offer from someone I’d never met and it is something you and I discussed over a year ago. Reading this article and all of yours are so helpful. I love being a part of God’s bigger story and I love being loved by God.

  • Spencer – so glad to hear that!

    Who of us doesn’t harbor disbelief anyway? The guy asking Jesus to heal his son said, “I believe; help me in my unbelief!”

    Often when I pray, I don’t have words. But when I do, my prayers sound something like that. I have prayed in faith for years for my daughter to be healed. Now I pray without much faith. Faith didn’t seem to do the trick.

    God bless us all, it is hard to be a human being.

    It sounds like you’re doing great at it.

  • Stacey Bartholomew

    What a great and timely blog (as always!!). Gearing up for a PVT in April in Romania and keeping my eyes and ears open for God’s leading on what’s next after that!! I’ve read Bob’s book “love Does”and now reading Kingdom Journey! It would be a pleasure to hear you both speak sometime together!! Thank you for pushing us towards the light!
    The mom hoping for her own WR type trip,

  • Stacey, it’s always encouraging to hear from those who want to get caught up in God’s big story. We need to be dreaming about a world race for adults!

  • Thanks Seth! I am not living a small story anymore, in part, thanks to your ministry and blog. My husband and I left our small story in Florida for a Small part in a HUGE story that God is writing. We host WR teams here in Panama, working with deaf kids and indigenous pastors. Such a highlight when the World Racers come for a month! The physical/material risk was nothing; a blessing and a relief, actually, to leave all that we knew. I would rather be no where else on earth that serving God here. The emotional/interpersonal risk of living expansively is much more terrifying and challenging for me. I get off the balance beam, then jump back on, clinging more tightly than before!! How do you jump off for good?? Blessings to you! We are looking forward to our 2nd WR team joining us later this month!

    • That’s great to hear, Heather. I forwarded your comment on to our leaders in the world race so that they can be aware of your thoughts about our partnership. Thank you!

  • I love this!
    God is so great about inviting us out of our small boxes, but I find I often just draw a new box around my new life. Thankfully, God continues to invite me into a larger story and the box continues to get bigger. I trust that one day I will stop drawing the boxes and be courageous enough to live boundless!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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