Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Power of Story in Community

"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 it is through reading To Be Told by Dan Allender, 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 we are a composite of our stories and how they shaped us. We are our past and the messages we write on our hearts from every moment we live. And I'm coming to believe that it's unlikely we will change those messages (and some of them are lies) unless we really examine the stories that told them to us.

And more importantly, I'm coming to also believe that we can't really know our stories on our own. Lately, we've started to look at our stories in community. A group of us in town have started meeting every other week to watch a video series by Dan Allender about writing our stories. Afterward we break into three groups and reflect on what we saw. In the process, we've started telling our stories to each other.

It's interesting, when you tell a story from your life to someone else. You think you know it, you understand it, but I think until you tell it to someone else, you don't see the truth in it. I've had people tell me incredible sad stories, but they laugh while they tell them, not realizing that it is their laughter that helps them avoid the terrible pain of what happened in those stories. I have told others stories and heard them say, "That must have been so hard," and until that moment, I haven't realized it myself. 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. And I feel like one of the greatest gifts is when someone listens to your story and feels it with you, and loves you in it. It's a powerful thing.

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