The first time I ever really sat down and told my story I was 17 years old. And I told it with a numbness and the urgency of an almost-up timer ticking in the background. I sat on a hard plastic chair and spilled my story out onto the table like coffee from a tipped over thermos: impossible to stop.
I could have gone so many other directions with my life. I could have built all the hurt and anger and abandonment and bruises and rage and fear and panic up inside me until it killed me. I could have never talked about it.
But even then I knew I had to. Even at 17.
I’ve often thought back to that day with nothing short of amazement and gratitude at the Grace and Mercy of God. The people he placed in my life. The friend that brought me to talk. The friend that listened. The friend that reached out. My life has been uncommonly characterized for good by friendship. The people who laughed and cried with me then are the same people who laugh and cry with me now. And this is not something I ever think about with anything less then astonishment.
There is that quote, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” It’s also true, show me your friends and I will show you the depth of healing you’ll achieve. Because not one single soul on earth was designed to live in anything else but vulnerable community.
It’s something I’ve noticed a lot of this year. How the communities we live in shape our perspectives and world views, shape or abilities to heal, shape our stories and how we tell them.
We are all a story. You. Me. Them. That woman over there. The crazy person. The bitter person. The narcissist. The victim. The orphan. The forgotten. The addict, especially, I think.
When God looks at us he doesn’t just see the parts that he wants to see. He doesn’t just see the redeemed part of you… The saint inside of you. He doesn’t just see a soul or a body… he sees both, and they are intricately connected.
The reason we can’t heal without sharing our stories is the same reason we cannot come to the Throne Room of Grace without humility: because it takes ALL OF YOU, sacrificed in order to heal: because hiding from God is impossible – you only end up hiding from yourself in a lie of your own making.
Presupposition number one: God is real.
Presupposition number two: God created you in his image.
Presupposition number three: because you’re made in the Image of God, and because God is a communal God of three persons, we can safely assume we are communal beings as well.
Presupposition number four: if sin separates us from God, then forgiveness and redemption bring us into relationship with him.
Presupposition number five: if brokenness is the result of sin, and sin separates us from God, we can safely assume that healing from sin requires community…first with God but also with our fellow Image Bearers.
Here is what I want to say….it’s the same thing I’ve been saying for the past three years of this blog: YOU ARE A STORY & YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL WHO YOU ARE.
It is when we live in vulnerable community that we are most fully seen and known.
It is when we live in community and deep friendships that we grow.
You can change the entire course of someone’s life just by listening to their story. You don’t need to know what to say when they tell you something terrible that is happened to them. It doesn’t take years of training to be able to love someone right where they are at. The skill of a hug is best learned in practice. It is OK to hold someone tight while they weep against your shoulder. To give them permission to grieve. Because I don’t know about you but this world is full of sin that breaks every one of us.
You don’t have to experience the loss of a child in order to grieve with someone who has. You don’t have to experience racism in order to grieve with someone who has. Just like you don’t have to experience sexual abuse or childhood trauma or domestic assault or addiction or eating disorders are self mutilation or suicide attempts in order to meet those that do.
We heal when we tell our stories and they are received. We heal when we receive the stories of others. We heal when we learn to repent. We heal when we realize that all this world has to offer us is only a shadow of what is to come.
Jesus knelt in the dirt to look into the eyes of a broken woman. Jesus reached up into the branches of a tree to greet a tax collector. Jesus sat around long tables. And when he was not listening to stories he was telling them. And it resonates because HE is THE STORY and we are A STORY.
How can we ever proclaim what God has done without our stories? How can we ever show the hand of God on our lives without telling of what he has done?
Your story is yours. It is the story of God at work inside you. It is your testimony. It is your Redemption. YOUR salvation. And no one gets to tell you that you cannot speak of all that God has done. Even if it means you tell the dark, true parts. Because for every one person who heals, there are ten thousand who haven’t, and don’t dare because too many keep their stories so censored.
YOU are a story. And you have the HONOR of telling it. Be wise how you speak it. But by all means, tell it.