2012-01-25 - What's Your Story?
"Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them." (1 John 5:10a GW)
I enjoy interesting stories, whether they're fiction or nonfiction, but I think there's something very powerful about true stories. I enjoy the magazine Guideposts© because it contains first-person accounts of people learning faith and life lessons, through the situations they face. I like to read memoirs because they're written by real people describing the happy and sad things that happen to them, and how they make sense of those experiences. Those are my favorite books to read, and my own first published book is a memoir.
I like listening to people describe significant events in their lives, as well. I used to enjoy a Christian radio program called Unshackled. This program, produced by Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, presented first-person dramatizations of true stories about how God brought people from various backgrounds through very difficult circumstances, to lives of faith and purpose. I prefer speeches or presentations where the speaker shares parts of their own experiences to make certain points, or to encourage or entertain their audience.
I think this interest in true stories is part of what drew me towards the field of counseling. I consider it an honor to hear stories from my clients about things they've been through or are going through. Learning about the important situations someone has faced, what they thought and felt about that situation, and the other important people involved in the experience, allows me to really get to know each person. It helps me understand them better, and to appreciate their point of view.
When sharing their stories, authors and speakers have to decide what parts they want to include. They also decide how they want to tell the story, which parts to emphasize and how they want the story to come across to those reading or listening. Those are important decisions for all of us, when we think about our own experiences. We each get to decide which parts of our story we're going to focus on and how we're going to tell them. The words we use, when we tell our stories to ourselves and to other people, have a lot of power. They either help us feel hopeful or helpless, angry or accepting, ashamed or victorious. We can either tell stories about survival and getting through hard times, or stories of how we've been beaten down and victimized. Our stories will help us, and those who hear them, to focus either on God's grace and power or on disappointments and tragedies.
The parts about life's difficulties are honest and important and shouldn't be left out, but I think its much more healthy to make the emphasis of any story about growth and the lessons we learn along the way. If we can learn from everything that happens to us, than no experience is without meaning. No time is wasted. God is working in our lives, even when we don't know it and even when we don't understand what He's up to. Our story can be about hope, faith, and trust because of knowing that. No matter what we've been through, the point of each story can be about healing and God's power and goodness.
Your story of how God has been real in your life is different from everyone else's. Some people's stories have more twists and turns than others. Some stories are more dramatic than others. It doesn't matter. If you think your story is boring or that no one would be interested in your life, you're probably underestimating yourself and your unique experiences and perspectives. We've all been through times of joy and times of sadness. We've all learned important lessons about ourselves, other people, and the world we live in. We can all learn from each other. We can gain wisdom and perspective from each other's experiences. You may not think so, but your story, as a whole, and in the smaller stories it is made up of, is important.
Ask God how He might want you to share some or all of your story. Not everyone writes books or gives public presentations. We all share bits and pieces of our stories throughout each day, during interactions with loved ones, colleagues, and even strangers. It's your story. It's the story of the life God has given you. It might be a story someone else really needs to hear.