Story. Everyone has one. People love to tell them. Much time and millions of dollars are spent per year reading them. Yet, why is it when we encounter a real person, we often have a difficult time hearing or engaging their story? Do we not want to be “rude” or “nosey”? Do we just not know what to ask? Is it a time factor and we are too busy? Is it too “messy” to deal with and we really just don’t want to know? Or could it be that there something in that person’s story that resonates deep within us and we won’t let our own hearts tread those waters? It works both ways: people must be willing to share as well as opening up and investing time in hearing and questioning others.
For many years, I was one of these people who just couldn’t go there. Hearing someone’s story or having them be vulnerable hit too close to home and I was afraid of exposing my own pain or situation. If someone asked how I was doing, I would give the typical response of “good!” so I wouldn’t have to go deeper. I wore masks to cover up the pain of my reality. I had walls of self-protection to keep people at a distance. What I didn’t realize was that I was not allowing anyone to speak truth into my life, to help me grow and learn from their experience and wisdom. I would have especially benefitted by someone sharing with me how they overcame the deepest struggles in their marriage and the vulnerability to admit my own.
It wasn’t until my marriage came crashing down that I realized how not being transparent or learning from wiser people was a serious mistake. I could have saved myself years of heartache and torment if I would have opened my heart and asked for help. Thankfully, we have an amazing story to tell of God’s unconditional love, grace and mercy. He redeemed our marriage. It’s truly a miracle! Yet, I have found that when people meet me and find out that we overcame separation and potential divorce, it typically goes over like any other piece of information, or like a weather report. I wonder, is it that they don’t relate or they don’t want to “pry,” or does it hit a place deep within them that they don’t want to expose their own pain? Now I really don’t want any attention or spotlight, because frankly, it’s much easier not to share any of the struggles we went through. Who really wants anyone to know how messed up you once were? It’s much easier to give the headlines than it is to be transparent and share your heart. Yet, does that help anyone or encourage them overcome their own struggles, or point them to a relationship with God?
We often want the headlines and then spend a large amount of time talking about the weather, a sports team, a political topic, or something else that really doesn’t have significance in our life. When someone goes on a vacation, all of the details want to be known, yet when someone is struggling with a difficult situation or a “messy” part of life, we don’t know what or even if we want to ask. It seems we tend to distance ourselves from getting to the heart of someone’s situation or life event. We may talk “about” them and what they went through to someone else, however it is rare that people step in to investigate what happened, how that person grew as a result, and potentially how they themselves could be encouraged and benefit from that experience/knowledge. Have we as a society become so absorbed with our own life that we have a difficult time going into the depths of another’s story? If one’s “story” is not just a series of events, rather full of meaning, purpose and lessons to be learned, why is it we have a difficult time engaging?
As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I realize that my life is not my own. It’s all about allowing Him to live in and through me to touch the lives of others so they, too, can experience the unconditional love, mercy and peace of God. When I share our story of how God redeemed our dead marriage and how He offers the same to others, it glorifies Him. He’s the Redeemer. It’s not about the details of our story, rather how we overcame and live victoriously now.
God is calling every person into a deep, intimate relationship, and He does it through people. He does it through our story, or “testimony.” When people hear how we gave up the comfortable life or the “American Dream” to discover what real living is all about, that can give others hope and vision to pursue their God-given desires as well. When we testify to what the Word (Jesus) has done in our life, we magnify and glorify Him.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Revelation 12:11
What has the Lord done in your life that you can testify about? What have you overcome by having a relationship with Him? How can listening to someone’s testimony give you a deeper revelation of God’s love or purpose? I challenge you to look at your own story and that of another, to discover something great. It’s an investment that could possibly give you direction and meaning, and help you or someone else overcome a difficult situation.