Sharing Your Story
Dan Allender, the author of To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future says that our story was uniquely crafted to say "yes" to something of the kingdom of God, and "no" to something of the kingdom of darkness. Do you know what the "yes" and "no" of your life are? What is the heart and soul of your story? Where do the tears flow in your life? The laughter? What breaks your heart? What makes it sing? As you share the stories behind these questions, you will discover patterns and themes. What do they reveal about you, God, and your calling and purpose?
As tellers of our story, we need to be more than transparent. We need to be vulnerable. I'm transparent when I disclose myself to you, but I remain in control. I'm giving you information, but not necessarily myself. It's a way for me to let you know about me without really knowing me. I am vulnerable when I invite you to respond and engage with me around what I've shared.
Being vulnerable is scary, so we often find ways to keep control of our story and the people listening. One way we do this is by sabotaging the telling by labeling, dismissing, or excusing our own story. "My life is pretty boring, but here goes." "Well, everyone has it tough in their teen years." These kinds of comments keep listeners away. We haven't truly trusted them with our story. We've interpreted it for them already, often in a dismissive way. We're afraid our story is too much, so we diminish and dishonor it as a preemptive way to address the fear that someone else may diminish or dishonor us.
We can also be afraid that our story is not enough. We don't want our story to be ignored or rejected so we get caught in a kind of emotional striptease, where we overshare in a way that titillates and manipulates, creating a false kind of intimacy. We've taken a shortcut in building authentic trust by giving details that exploit rather than invite. Don't "bare all" to get people to pay attention. Trust the power and meaning of your story.
A good story is not told in a vacuum, though. We cannot see our own face nor can we look directly into the face of God. We need others to reflect ourselves and the image of God back to us. For our story to have meaning, it must be told in the context of community and stir the desire for relationship. Will you invite others into your life with your story? Will you allow them access into the sacred spaces where they can both mourn and celebrate with you?
In order for good stories to be shared, our small groups must reflect what Daniel Taylor, author and professor of literature at Bethel College calls the "ethics of storytelling." He believes there should be a covenant of mutual honor, openness, and value between the teller and listener.
As listeners of another's story, we're receiving a gift. Will we receive that gift well, or will we squander it? We've all experienced that awkward silence when we've finished sharing and we're staring at the group. As a listener, what will your face reflect back to the storyteller? Will it say, "Thank you. I want to know you even more." or will it be blank and bored, revealing a heart that's too proud or hard to be moved? Will we listen to another's story with the sense of privilege and delight that the person deserves? Allow others' stories to impact, inspire, disturb, and disrupt you. Share what it has meant for you to be the receiver of that story. Ask questions. Be curious and kind.