Why The World Needs You To Tell Your Stories
I remember the day I met with the chair of the committee I was supposed to meet with in order to begin my process of becoming a pastor. I was full of energy and enthusiasm, idealistic and ready to begin.
Then he laid before me a piece of paper that contained a list of over a hundred steps that I would have to complete before I would be ready to be ordained.
I stared at that list, and swallowed hard. Then he asked me a question that I would have asked of me over and over again over the next four years. "Why do you want to do this?"
The answer I gave then was suddenly tempered by the weight of the process that I would have to enter into, and I can't honestly recall exactly what I said in that moment.
The gist of it was simple enough, though. I wanted to be a bridge for people who had been wounded and hurt by religion, and who had given up on the Church to heal their their broken heart. I wanted to spend my life showing them that there was more to Christianity than following rules.
I also wanted to find a way to transform the existing Church so that emerging generations would find a home there.
This verse from Isaiah 29:13 was a guiding light for me then, and it still is:
These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules, they have been taught.
Over time, I came to realize that if I was going to live into that calling I was going to need to change, too. I was part of an institution that seemed to be unaware of itself, and oblivious to the changing world around it. And I had begun to act just like it.
There were stops and starts to that process of transformation, to be sure. I very nearly lost my faith more than once, which was especially trying as a pastor.
At last, I had to dive to the bottom of my doubts, and I emerged farther down stream than I could have ever predicted---but more open, more ready to live into that particular calling I had felt long ago.
Some days I feel like I'm closer to the dream of that calling I felt, and other days I feel so very far away. I'm still a work in progress.
But I have come to understand that it's so incredibly important for us to remember why we started our journey of faith---how it felt, what we hoped for, the thrill of our expectations for a new life, a new world.
It's also important for us to remember how sometimes we had to swallow hard, and try our best to articulate our "Why?" even when we weren't sure of the answer.
And then we can't be afraid of sharing the stories of how we got to where we are, especially... especially... if we haven't yet arrived to where we long to be.
Author Bob Goff recently wrote:
We don’t want someone else’s answers, and we don’t need someone’s opinion, because more opinions just create more anxiety. What we really want to know is that we’re not alone. We need to know someone else has endured nights of barely breathing and they kept waking up to new mornings.
If we are being honest with ourselves, the stories of our life have the power to shape our theology, affect our beliefs, and not necessarily the other way around.
Our stories have the power to free us from the cold, lifeless dogmas and doctrines of the Church that aren't at all interested in our stories.
Madeline L'Engle once wrote:
Jesus wasn’t a theologian. He was God who told stories.
I love that so much. Because now more than ever we need to be willing to be vulnerable enough to share our stories---stories that matter to God, and also matter to the world that God is always working to restore and resurrect.
It's no secret that there is so much darkness in the world around us, and there are people in our lives who desperately need to hear a word of hope from those of us who are even now fighting our way to the light.
So tell your stories. Tell them even though you are afraid to tell them. Tell them even if it feels like no one is listening. Tell them because you may need to hear them more than anyone else. Tell your stories.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.