Tell Me A Story…
“So. What do you do?”
It’s the first question that almost everyone asks when they meet someone new (unless you’re a Jon Hodgeman fan). It’s a means of at least beginning to connect with one another, but in order to keep going with that connection, there has to be more that goes past “I’m in vacuum cleaner sales.” What made you go into job-X? Where did you go to school? Ever think of doing something different? Tell me more.
In a way, what we’re asking for is for the other person to tell us a story about themselves. And once you get some people telling their stories (some of them sort of force it on you, actually), most are pretty content to keep going. We like to talk about ourselves, in general.
There are limits, of course. There are things that aren’t polite in all company or things that we’re ashamed of letting other people know. Sometimes it’s just too soon in a relationship to tell someone something, or maybe we’re scared of how the other person will react. It may even be that telling the story causes us to relive something that we don’t want to revisit.
Despite those limits, I think we really do want to tell our stories. We want someone to hear those things that we’re uncertain about. If they don’t hear about that one thing, can we be sure that they really care about us? Even with that? It’s part of being a community. It’s part of being loved.
In fact, telling stories is exceedingly powerful. Soldiers coming back from the front lines sometimes return with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s not just soldiers, either. Anybody who has survived something traumatic can end up with intense memories that sometimes surface and cause a person to re-experience the thing that left them scarred. The cure for this? Tell the story. As much as you don’t want to relive or repeat the story, telling that story to people who are really listening (and if it’s traumatic enough, sometimes just telling it regardless of listeners) serves to lessen the impact. In time, with enough tellings and enough listeners, the trauma fades into the background instead of jumping out to the foreground when you least expect it.
Telling the story helps to make the experience normal. Having someone listen and lovingly be present in the telling gives a feeling of not only normalcy, but that the experience, and the person, are okay. Even loved.
God told us our history through stories. History, however, isn’t finished, and each person holds part of that history in his or her own story. Thus, perhaps God calls us to continue telling our stories to one another. It binds us together as community, it heals wounds, and it opens a way for others and the Spirit to connect with us.
Is there a space in your church to tell one another’s stories? If not, is there a means of making this happen?