“All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” – The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
In the last few years, I’ve thought a lot more about my story. Partly this is from coaching others to know their stories, partly through reading To Be Told by Dan Allender, and partly it’s just the way God is leading me.
Many people think the past is just the past-over and done, let’s move on. But the past is part of us.
We are a composite of our stories and how they shaped us. There are messages on our hearts from every moment we have lived-messages about who we are, what it takes for us to find love and belonging, and how to safeguard our hearts.
The problem is that those messages are often fuzzy versions of truth, and they can lead us to seek ways of saving ourselves rather than calling us to rest in God. It’s unlikely we will change those messages, and the behavior that stems from them, unless we really examine the stories that told them to us.
And more importantly, we can’t know our stories well on our own. The last spring we lived overseas, a group of us met every other week to watch a video series by Dan Allender called Learning to Love Your Story. Afterward we broke into groups and reflected on what we heard. In the process, we told our stories to each other.
It’s interesting, when you tell a story from your life to someone else. You think you know it and understand it, but until you tell it to someone else, you don’t see it for what it is. I’ve had people tell me incredible sad stories, but they laugh while they tell them, not realizing that their laughter helps them avoid feeling the pain of what happened. I have told others stories, heard them say, “That must have been so hard,” and until that moment, I hadn’t realized it myself. We see our stories through a certain lens; we need help to zoom out and see them more clearly.
When we tell our stories, others can ask questions and help us connect the dots to who we are in the present because of our past. They can help us see how what happened to us in the past still shapes us now, for good or harm. They can point us to wounds that need healing, sin that needs redeeming, lies that need the truth.
One of the greatest gifts is someone listening to your story, feeling it with you, and loving you in it. Here there is opportunity for healing and transformation. In telling our stories, others help us wipe the film from them to see the truth, to recognize the lies and vows we have embraced to help us save ourselves. They can give us the grace and compassion many of us missed in our stories the first go around. This is the power of story.
Do you know your own story? Do others know it?