Story As The Path To Life

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[This is part two of a two part series where I share my heart regarding how we begin to connect with each other regarding race, in particular, and the pain and trauma of our humanity in general within the framework of the Life and Love of God.]

My experience in the church is that we do not tell our stories well and most of the time we actually tell them poorly. My experience is also that we do not listen and respond well to the stories of others. Those of us who have grown up in or have, for any significant length of time, experienced the contemporary church in America have heard a lot of “Testimonies” but very few, if any, real stories. Stories that provide insight into who someone really is and why they are who they are. Stories that provide context, a point of connection, and/or a space for empathy. Stories that facilitate the entry of God’s love to offer care, comfort, restoration, and renewal for the storyteller; and, illumination, insight, and edification for the hearer. We engage very little, if any at all, of the stories that shape us as children, adolescences, or young adults.  Very little, if any, of the stories of guilt, shame, pain, and trauma.

If we are serious about nurturing an honest conversation regarding race, we must learn to listen to and respond well to the stories of others. We must also learn to tell our own real stories and invite others into them. If we do not allow, encourage and embrace these stories, our communities, no matter how or how much we protest and, quite honestly, no matter how much our hearts break, will not be fundamentally different than they were before George Floyd was murdered.

The engagement of real stories must form the foundation of “Authentic Christian Community” not just as we embark on racial understanding and empathy but as part of the DNA that makes us, as Christians, different. Embracing story moves us closer to being the people that God has called us to be. People who listen and respond to a person’s story of trauma and pain with compassion and care. People who are able to tell our own story of trauma and pain with honesty, integrity and courage as we invite others in – that they may truly know us. Not simply the everyday façade we put on for “the world” at large.

There is a powerful scene at the end of Episode 1 of “The Chosen”, a streaming series on the life of Jesus, where Jesus comes for Mary Magdalene. She is unknown. She has lost her name, who she is as a person and, more importantly, who she is as God’s beloved. She is called by and answers to a different name, a foul name. Jesus comes to her, speaking Isaiah 43:1 over her, and calls her by her true name:

Jesus: MARY! Mary of Magdala. Mary: Who are you? How do you know that name? Jesus: Thus says the Lord who created you. And he who formed you. Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You … are mine!”

Through that connection, God will draw each of us into the deep places in each other’s lives that lead to new life – places of hearing and of being heard. Of knowing and being known. If we can embrace story well within our communities, we will become known as truly being people of The Way. People of truth, honesty, healing, redemption, and renewal. People of the life and love that Jesus promises.

If we are honest, from a practical perspective, we really don’t know how to tell or invite others into our stories and we certainly don’t know how to receive, listen and respond well to someone else’s story.

To help provide a place to start … a basic foundation for engaging story, our own and others, I recommend the following discussions from Wild At Heart:

How to Listen to Someone's Story

Responding to Someone's Story

How to Tell Your Story

Inviting Others Into Your Story

Obviously, this series is just a start but it is powerful start as we seek to engage each other well with the goal of hearing, respecting and honoring each of our stories; no matter race or background … no matter what.

I encourage you to listen and let me know your thoughts. Maybe together, through our shared stories, we may truly be one as Jesus prays for us in John 17. “I in them and you in me.” One. Together with Jesus. It doesn’t get any better … Godspeed!

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