The Lower and Upper Story (Author, Randy Frazee)

The Lower and Upper Story (Author, Randy Frazee) October 5, 2011

Two stories unfold with every story in the Bible – The Lower Story and the Upper Story.

The Lower Story is the one being written and told from a six-foot perspective – a horizontal and linear viewpoint.

The Upper Story is the one being written and told from above, from God’s perspective – a vertical, holistic viewpoint.

In the Lower Story we are dealing with things in the here and now – paying bills, dealing with conflict, getting over a cold, finding a job, winning a race, stubbing your toe and what you say after you stub your toe.  The Lower Story is our Story.

In the Upper Story we discover what God is up to; how he is weaving our story into his one divine love story. The Upper Story is God’s Story.

Cain & Abel – In the Lower Story we learn about the dark side of untamed sibling rivalry. Cain takes the life of his brother Abel out of jealously for his brother’s success.  In the Upper Story we learn that the sin nature that was injected into the life of Adam and Eve that got them booted from the garden is automatically and verifiably transmitted to their offspring. Adam’s choice becomes our choice. We have a big problem that needs a solution.

Noah – In the Lower Story we learn of a crazy man who hears from God and builds a boat in the middle of dry land. We learn of God’s regret that he made humans and his punishment upon them. In the Lower Story we learn about faith. In the Upper Story we see something different. God wants to get us back into the garden. Plan A is to start over with the best guy humans have and see if this doesn’t fix the problem. Not too long off the boat, Noah’s son willfully looks upon his naked, drunk and past out father in his tent. Plan A didn’t work. Noah was plagued with the sin nature. Time for Plan B. The solution to getting us back into a relationship with God will not come from us – not even the best of us – but from another.

Joseph – In the Lower Story we are introduced to a massively dysfunctional family. Joseph’s brothers, out of envy and disgust for their younger brother, sell him to a band of gypsy’s who in turn sell him as slave in Egypt. Twenty years later when Joseph is reunited to his brothers we learn of heartfelt forgiveness. How could Joseph forgive his brothers for what they did to him? Joseph caught a glimpse of God’s Upper Story. Joseph said to his brother (I paraphrase), “What you did to me in the Lower Story was evil, but God used it to accomplish his good Upper Story plan.” God put Joseph in a position of power in Egypt to save Israel from a devastating famine so they could continue their purpose of bringing to the world the one who would provide the solution back into a relationship with God – Jesus, born of the tribe of Judah.

Mary – In the Lower Story we have a scandal. A young woman engaged to be married, gets pregnant and her fiancé is not the father. In the Upper Story we have a solution to our scandal. The one providing the solution back into a relationship with God in the new garden will not come from the seed of Adam, but the seed of the Holy Spirit – without sin.

Every story in the Bible contains practical wisdom for us dwelling in the Lower Story. We should look and use these discoveries in our daily lives. At the same time, God is using every story in the Bible to tell his one Upper Story of how we can get back into garden with him forever. When you read the Bible, look for both storylines.

Oh, one more thing. God is doing the same in your life.  He meets you in your Lower Story with practical help to get you through the day. But he is also telling his unfolding Upper Story through your life. Align your life to God’s Upper Story plan, like Joseph of the Old Testament and Mary of the New Testament did, and he promises that everything in your life will ultimately work for the good, as it did for them. (Romans 8:28)

Question: Have you seen glimpses of God’s Upper Story colliding with your Lower Story?


Randy Frazee is the author of The Heart of the Story and the Senior Minister of the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas where we serves in partnership with his friend, Max Lucado. Randy has been married to his bride Rozanne for 30 years. They have four grown children and one really adorable granddaughter. For more information check out Follow Randy on Twitter.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Revbtgilligan

    Great article! Thank you for sharing this.  I have heard this idea before but not in terms of story.  Thanks!

  • TAS

    …..regarding the passage about Noah – I think you meant to write “passed out father” rather than “past out father”, yes?

  • Melissa Wise

    I enjoyed this article, because it gave definitions and examples for me to better understand the Stories. I will be writing letters back to my brothers and sisters in the faith. The church is trusting that I do a great job. I feel honored to have such a position, but with one word it could spark a conflict or encourage grow.
    As a writer, how would handle all the different situations? I’m going to pray long and hard, write a rough draft and then a final draft. I’m to leave it in God’s hands, and use stories from what I have learned in my life.
    What if they can’t relate or they don’t understand?
    How did you write this article?
    How did God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit inspire you to write this article?
    I have more questions.
    Thank you for writing.