A 30 something American who was completely shut off to Jesus for most of his life who now helps direct a multimillion dollar ministry in Nicaragua. A 60 something woman who was running as far from Jesus as she could through a life of vicarious partying before an earthquake no one else felt woke her up and sent her to church where she came to know Jesus.
A 20 something biologist from the suburbs who has a heart for Hispanic students and wants to one day teach at a school in the inner city about the integration of science and faith. These are just a few of the stories I had the privilege to hear over the last week as I took two Graduate School classes at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary’s Charlotte campus.
As I listened to each of those individuals share about their lives as part of my Spiritual Formation class, I couldn’t help but reflect on the raw power of stories in general. Stories have a unique ability to illustrate the most significant parts of our lives like nothing else can. The stories we choose to tell (and not tell) demonstrate what it is we hold most valuable, they reveal the formative experiences that lie behind the surface of our often placid lives, and they often carry authority in situations where not much else will.
It’s in light of my moving experience this past week of listening deeply to these stories, and the inherent power of story-telling in general, that I can’t help but wonder- why don’t we take time to share our stories more often?
While I’m sure there are any number of plausible answers to that question I think it all boils down to fear. Fear keeps us selfish with our stories. Fear keeps us from generously sharing them with others. Fear keeps our conversations stuck at the mundane level of much our everyday discourse.
The fact of the matter is it’s scary to share our stories with others. Every time we open ourselves up to share with someone beyond a superficial level we’re taking the risk that they’ll reject or revile us for it. So we keep our mouths shut. And that’s one of the most selfish choices we can make.
Why? Because someone needs to hear your story!
In the spiritual world God has vested our stories with special power to illustrate the power of Christ’s redemption for others.
In our personal lives it’s always easier to change when we’re able to hear the story of someone else having been right where we are and been able to make the change we want to make.
In the business world stories can illuminate potential potholes and the best route to take for positive outcomes like nothing else can.
All of which adds up to this simple truth, there’s a cost to keeping your story to yourself.
This week take time to ask those you work with, live with, or lead about their stories. Instead of settling more small-talk you’ll forget almost the moment it’s done with, try and go deeper through the vehicle of story. Ask questions like, “What was growing up like for you?” “Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do?” “What have been some of the most significant moments of your life?”
After my experience of being so encouraged by the stories of others this past week I’ll be striving to make a habit of asking questions like these more often. Consider joining me on the adventure, and see what God starts to do as you more intentionally seek out the stories of those people He places around you and look for increased opportunities to share your own.