In some houses, the nighttime routine would sound something like this…
“Read me another story.”
In our house, at least for a while and especially with Grace, it sounded more like this…
“Tell me another story. Something you did when you were a kid.”
I’m not sure what she was so fascinated with. I do believe that I learned from my daddy how to tell a good story, but when it’s your own story, somehow it doesn’t seem as interesting.
But I would oblige, sometimes, and I would tell her stories, my stories. Ones about my inability to say no to a dare, leading me, often, into precarious situations. One of her favorites was the time I was dared to run across a murky swamp. Thinking the green muck that coated the top of the water would be sturdy enough to hold my 9 year old frame and not wanting to turn back and seem afraid, I charged across. Perhaps the first few steps were simply shallow, but around the half way point, I began to sink. I ended up neck deep in the most disgusting mix of water and slime imaginable. I lost my shoes in that swamp, but I emerged with my dignity. I walked home barefoot, covered in a thick coating of green ick, proudly telling the neighborhood kids “I told you I would do it!” I remember being hosed off by my mom, as she gently reminded me that it was okay to just walk away from a challenge now and then.
Sometimes I would tell her more serious stories, ones about some of the stupid decisions I made as a teenager. Staying in an unhealthy relationship for far too long. Getting in a friend’s car, knowing that he was planning on proving the speed of his Mustang compared to the speed of another friend’s Camaro, on a well-traveled country road. Or keeping friends around that were very clearly pulling me away from the Lord, because once I make a friend, I usually have a hard time letting them go. I didn’t tell her all of the mistakes that I made, she didn’t need to know the details, but I guess I hoped that my stories would help her make wiser choices in her own life.
Isn’t this kind of the same as what the disciples did in Acts, or what Stephen did before the Sanhedrin? Told stories? They told of mistakes that had been made, poor choices that resulted in unavoidable consequences. All in hopes that hearts would hear and lives would be changed.
This isn’t doctrine and I know that everyone has an opinion, but when Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh, I’ve never seen that as a physical ailment. He very clearly says that it was a messenger of Satan, sent to torment him. I’ve always felt that a messenger does one thing, carries a message. What could that message have been for Paul? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it could’ve been a guilty reminder of who Paul was. A man who tracked down Christ followers and ordered them to die. Someone who stood by and not only approved of Stephen’s stoning, but watched it take place. And torment, my friends, comes in many different packages. I’ve had chronic pain, physical problems that don’t go away, no matter how many doctors I see, but nothing I’ve experienced in the physical, matches emotional or mental torment. There is no relief, no escape, no rest for something that plagues the mind. But Paul pressed on. He continued to tell his story. After pleading with the Lord to remove the messenger, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
What’s your story? What part of your life could you share with someone that needs to hear redemption? What weakness have you struggled with, that maybe you’ve beat at times, but maybe at other times, it has beaten you?
Sometimes I feel like I could write a list. Need to hear my story about friendships that end abruptly? I’ve got a few. Or how about the one about listening and believing deceptive lies, coming from the boy I thought I loved and was supposed to marry? I’ve got one of those too. I could tell you the story of watching helplessly, as the man that raised me to be dependent on no one, lay in a hospital bed, completely dependent on those around him. Or I could tell you my most recent story. The one about the greatest loss of my life. The day my world fell apart and my faith was tested beyond what I ever thought I could endure.
My stories could have titles like Depression, Anxiety, Fear or Loss, but there is redemption in each of these stories. There is hope and love, forgiveness and pain. Jesus is in my stories. Jesus will always be in my stories.
Tell your story. Don’t be afraid of it. Someone needs to hear it. Someone feels alone and lost and in the middle of their story and perhaps they don’t see an end, at least not one with joy.
Maybe, just maybe, Jesus can use your story to reach them.