Something about story
I was walking through IKEA with an old school mate today and a song came over the speakers.
“This song reminds me of you – didn’t you sing it once at school?”
My response was nonchalant.
“Really? I wouldn’t remember. I’ve tried to block out that time in my life”.
Reflection is not my thing. Which is pretty strange for someone who loves to analyse, communicate and resolve conflict. There is something about sitting in my own history that just bugs me. Firstly, I’m not sure I can remember much and often I’m convinced that the memories are not even close to being accurate. Piecing together memories from my childhood is a little like when you play scrabble and you’re not sure that you’ve created an ACTUAL word except there is no dictionary for confirmation. It’s partially because I have a pretty ordinary ability to remember, and then I can’t help wondering if there is something else stopping me.
Also, I’ve never seen the importance of my own details. Perhaps that’s why I chose ‘story’ to be my word this year.
“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell it for you.”
“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell it for you.”
Going silent on your own story gives others the freedom to create their own about you. Inevitably, this is bound to happen to some degree. I mean with every human conversation comes a degree of bringing your own baggage; be it, interpretation, our past, our judgement, or conditioning – it all comes to the party. But this is not really what I’m contemplating when I think about ‘going silent’ on my own story.
I’ve not looked at it enough.
With eyes wide open and a thirst for seeing both the pain and the goodness, I’ve not ever given it its due. I imagine for me that it would mean reflecting on it; perhaps journaling it and extracting the big and notable stuff like experiences and people who influenced me. Maybe it would mean naming the BIG moments of change and achievement and expressing what that felt like and looked like, but laying the deck of cards out on the table for a clear glance over, is probably the best first step.
Then, I imagine you get to sit in it. You get to put descriptive words around the story and bring all those memories back to life.
At The Big Table, we have things called ‘Dining Tables’. (We also have ‘Coffee Tables’, ‘Little Tables’, and our pastor’s family have a dog called Chipper. One of these things is not like the other) A dining table meets each fortnight, and we share a meal. A few years ago, we did something that I cannot recall doing in any other setting or with any other group before.
Each time we met, as long as it took to get through the whole group, we had a Dining Table member tell their story. From beginning to end. As much or as little as they wanted.
I remember driving to dinner the night that it was my turn. My thoughts and emotions were a mixed bag. I wondered what it was going to feel like to step into a space of such vulnerability with people I barely knew. I also resented having to talk about myself for so long because I was convinced that people would think I was bragging. (Not that there was much to brag about but the sheer volume and time allowed to tell ‘my story’ equated to some kind of personal arrogance in my mind!), and then for the very same reason, I felt excited. Excited that people would value me enough to hear my personal story and not just the abridged version!
‘You know, I have come to think listening is love, that’s what it really is.’
I felt the love. It made me realise the power of listening as an act of love to those around me, and I often ponder on how well I’m doing with that?
It took about an hour (sometimes more because some people just have super-interesting lives!) and dispersed amongst the tales of travel, parents’ divorcing and the teenage angst, was this thread of a greater story. We each spoke about our picture of God, some of us had wrestled with it, and some were still wrestling, but each of us recognised that our own story was wrapped up in a bigger story.
Seeing our own story and owning it allows us to recognise the story in our neighbour, our wife, our work colleague, or even our enemy. Because everybody has a story and everyone brings part, if not all of that story to each moment.
We need to be in a story that is bigger than ours that leads us to hope that carries us to the tomb
Cornel West was talking about sorting out our theology on death when I heard him say this. In fact, what he actually said was “get your theology on death in check!!” Whoah Nelly. That’s a bit much. But it did get me thinking…
My earthly story is a mere speck on a rock that spins around a sun. It is finite in the light of eternity. Yet it is mine. Given to me from a Creator who named me before I was born and who made me – fearfully and wonderfully.
To understand that our stories are embedded in another one that is far greater than ours calls us to a purpose that is far greater than us.
If we truly believe when we pray, “Lord, let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we need to have your theology on death in check. This life is my story. It is my opportunity to live true to this text but, more importantly, to bear witness as I live out my part to play in God bringing heaven to earth. We all have to figure out for ourselves how we can do this.
What strikes me as I mature into my own story, is this sense that as I bring the beauty of who I am to light, who I am in Christ is also brought to light.
So I’m thankful for my friend’s reminder as I recall that time in year 10 when I sang “More than words” at our semi-formal. I can add that memory to the bucket of memories and moments that will continue to build my own story and hopefully lead me into another chapter.
Wow! I get to be the first to comment….through my jet-lagged haze I need to remember that this is a public comment and not just you and me sitting across from each other over caffeine….sometimes I shy away from my story, from my past…I think that’s a lot because of reasons you have touched on; I don’t remember things well, I’m worried my recollection is not the same as others and I’m concerned that those moments in my mind don’t show me, or others, in the best light. There can be a tendency to see memories as a genuine snap shot that reflects how things really were and sometimes we get “were” and “are” mixed up in our frail little minds. This allows an emergency needs assessment analogy 🙂 information is time bound, situations change, sometimes rapidly, sometimes in ways we don’t expect so understanding the story, the anatomy of the crisis if you will, is important because it helps us understand how things are NOW, but how things were on day 1, day 15 or day 24 should not be assumed to BE the situation on day 47….
“Our story” then (all the bits we remember, the ones we are proud of, the ones we are not…and even the parts we don’t remember) could be the bricks that make us what we are and what we are becoming. Maybe we are like Lego and can be rebuilt, re-structured, taken down, yucky bricks removed….maybe we are trees sometimes having good years where we grow meters and sometimes having bad years where we are stunted but always with the potential to bounce back, especially after some judicious pruning.
So I’ll take your story Sera; because I value the stunning thing you are getting built into and as a friend I want to understand you and learn from you, and each time we meet I’ll look forward to the very latest version of you.
I loved the emergency needs assessment analogy. You have been part of my story lately. Thanks for that!