September 15, 2011
“The Definition of a character is someone who wants something but has to overcome conflict to get it” Donal Miller A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
It was the most frightening day of my summer in Denver, we had been asked to write and present our spiritual autobiographies. During the retreat the week before we had shared a part of our stories but in usual fashion I had made a show out it, not knowing how to handle the emotions of the situation. I planned out what I wanted to say and lost the audience because I couldn’t connect with myself.
So there I sat at Issachar, a bottle of water in my hands in case I needed some of it. My voice was shaking, my hands were shaking, I was nervous. What were they going to think of me? Would they judge me for the things I’d done? I slowly, quietly unraveled the tale of my life. I spoke of the pain I experienced growing up because of how people treated me, about my salvation and how I’d always struggled with fitting in and how I was still healing from being spiritually abused at the church I worked at. I did all of this and more without being showy or flashy, and the response I got was “we liked it much better then when you shared on the retreat.”
That Sunday I was preaching at Christ’s Body (where I worked) I used my “Kenny” illustration (the character named Kenny who asks a lot of questions) and felt like I’d lost the room. I began preaching the word of God and they came back a little but when I told a story of my own invitation (I was preaching on Luke 5) into God’s calling for my life. I was told later by my supervisor and friend Pastor John Moorehead, “The time you connected most was when you used a personal story” I heard the same thing from Scott and Melanie (my DUS mentors) who had also attended the service.
Now I’ve decided to write a book using parts from my story and I must admit it’s been hard. So much of my life is a mess still, in my mind I can hardly depict where God is, however I know He was there in those moments, letting me write my own story that was leading to pain and disaster. Like He revealed to me that day in the Labyrinth (See “The Mountain Stream” July 4, 2011) He had been and I know He always will be, writing my story for me.
The temptation I’ve struggled with throughout the time I’ve been writing has been to dumb down my story. Repeatedly I have said to myself “No one hurts this much” knowing very well that both characters I’m creating and my own life story are vivid examples of pain and the grace that is only found in Jesus Christ. The temptation is to not be real, to not share what I experienced and to make the book a happy-go-lucky story of how happy we can become. But we all have to overcome the conflict and that can mean a lot of hardship if we do it apart from God like I spent a lot of my life (even my Christian life) doing.
But every story is different, some rarely encounter hardships, some are strong and bold in the face of trials and some feel emotions and pain very intensely like I do. The point I’m trying to make here is this, within the Christian circle there is a need for people to be real, forget the model of testimony writing, there is no formula to being real. It requires us to be exposed, to feel totally vulnerable and show each other and the world our hearts in all their wounded state. In telling our stories we can encourage one another and if we are real and honest bring glory to God because of where he has brought us from and where He is taking us.
So tell your story, tell it with the intent of being real, of showing the world what God has done for you. Be a light that shines before all men, a voice in the church, learn from your story and help others learn from it by not putting on a show but just telling it. Then, step back and quietly let Christ move in you and through you in a way that you have never felt Him work before!