“Tell me your story.”
This common phrase in Christian culture is belittling. Let me tell you why…
We hear this question and we go straight to our childhood, and sometimes to who we were before we “knew” (or whichever word you use) Jesus. We like to talk about our families, what all we have done in our lives, who and what has been impactful, our relationships (maybe even wife and kids...and yes, grandparents and grandkids too), where we have lived, etc. Sometimes we see the phrase as synonymous to our “testimony”. Although all of these things are good and important parts to our “story”, they are exactly that; parts. We are doing our stories a disservice when we restrict them to these aspects.
This month I’ve had the chance and been invited to unpack what really is my “story”. What I’ve realized and truly began to grasp is just how important my story actually is. My story is so much more than my childhood memories, hobbies, family, and even my testimony. It sits within the grand story of creation; and ultimately, its redemption. Adam and Eve, Abraham, the Exodus, Paul, and The Last Supper are just as much apart of my story as Mom and Dad, my siblings, Greensboro, the week at Young Life camp that changed my life, and Lord willing, a wife and kids in the future. These historical people and events play a significant role in who I am, where I come from, and where I am going. Being easily deceived, grasping for the fruit, commitment before understanding, repetitive unbelief amidst constant provision and kept promises, humility and change of heart, and reconciliation are each a piece to my story and life. These are just a few ways in which I have seen my story intertwined in the biblical narrative and how recognizing my place in the grand scheme often changes my perspective. I can truly sit and experience how my life and story is a continuation of these past stories.
Now don't think that I’m downplaying my family, friends, how I started a personal relationship with Jesus, and the rest of my experiences during my 22 years on earth. I’ve also gained a hefty appreciation for all the ways these things impacted me. At the same time, I’ve started to dig deeper and wrestle with all the ways my experiences and habits in life have influenced me covertly. Things like what my family talked about at the dinner table, who I hung out with growing up, what activities I did, what our parents pushed or didn’t push us to do, relationships with our extended family, what high school and college I attended, and so much more left a bigger mark on me as a person than I would have realized otherwise. I am aiming to be more cognizant of the lies and traps that are in my everyday life, both small and big, that leave a mark on my heart and mind. Too much has gone unnoticed so far; my hope is that a deep and wide awareness would permeate my heart, soul, mind, and body.
This past month has been far from easy, comfortable, or routine. I’ve been moving at a faster pace than I have in a long time. I haven’t felt “in the rhythm” much at all. I’ve been struggling to balance work, preparing for class, time with my host family, time with my immediate family, exercise, other commitments, time alone, and time with the Fellows. Being close to home and friends at UNC and other nearby cities has been both a blessing and a downfall. It makes it that much harder to manage relationships within the Fellows and all the different spheres in my life. Interruptions, changes of plans, and lost time have all been challenges. Being holistically disciplined (physically, mentally and faithfully) in a whirling environment like this is extremely difficult. There are some good days, and lots of hard days where I feel like I missed that mark (that’s my 1-wing coming out for all you Enneagram people reading, or not reading, out there). At times, this can be discouraging and lies can lead me to believe it’s shameful. However, I attempt to combat those false ideas with these truths that I’ve been learning. I am constantly reminded of my good friend, Austin, who passed on the wise words given to him from his own mentor that “growth and comfort cannot coexist”. This statement has sat with me for a year and a half now, and each time I am reminded of it, it becomes truer and truer to me.
This was much longer than I originally anticipated, and there is much more going on than I desire or have the time to write about. As with most of these posts, I will be the one that benefits most (if not at all) from it. God’s peace to any of you readers out there.