A friend recently asked me if I would talk to our church youth group about my experience as a teenager. I gave her a funny look, wondering why anyone would want to hear about a lonely, awkward teenager. Then she told me other kids, especially the girls, need to hear those stories so they know it gets better.
Fast forward to last Thursday night when I had the opportunity to see For King & Country in concert with a friend of mine. At one point, the music stopped and Luke came forward to tell the story behind the song and the album title “Burn the Ships” (See the story here). The entire arena was silent. Every person in the building stopped to listen to him tell the story.
As my friend drove us home, I said, “It must be so painful for him to tell his wife’s story at every concert.”
And she answered, “Yeah, but think of what it does to break the stigma.”
There is power in our stories.
Power to bring healing and understanding. Power to inspire and to call forward.
When We Tell Our Stories
It’s important to tell the stories that shape us, the stories that made us who we are today. But how we tell our stories is extremely important. When we tell our stories we must be sure that we speak from a place of victory, even if we’re still fighting. Because we believe that through His death on the cross and His resurrection, Jesus has already overcome the world.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
The victory is already won. Yes, we struggle here on earth. Yes, we fight and we suffer. Yes, there is injustice and oppression. But we believe our Savior will return one day and He will make all the wrong right.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18
It’s also important that we avoid getting nostalgic about bondage. When the Israelites left Egypt, they looked back at their slavery and romanticized it in comparison to their struggles in the desert.
“The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’”Exodus 16:3 NIV
Keep in mind they were not just slaves in Egypt but were being worked to death by Pharaoh making bricks and were commanded to kill their own children! Doesn’t sound like a situation anyone would want to return to. But the known is comfortable and the unknown is frightening, even when you’ve seen the power of God through multiple miracles.
We can be tempted to focus on the little bit of good in the bad situations of our past. But we must orient our storytelling in the direction of Truth. And tell the whole story, not just the parts that make us feel good or look good. Any reminiscing about or recounting of our past that paints slavery as freedom discounts the power of God to transform our lives.
When We Hear Stories
How we listen to stories is just as important as how we tell them. Jesus used many stories to communicate the principles of the Kingdom of God and to rebuke the religious leaders at the time who thought they were “in” when they were decidedly “out”.
I contend we need to be graceful listeners. Resist rushing to judgment. Cherish their choice to be vulnerable with you and offer a safe place to unload, even if the other person doesn’t know how to process or even tell their story yet.
Not every problem needs fixing. By you. Right now. Sometimes just saying our stories out loud is enough. If someone wants an answer, support, or help, they will ask. Try to listen without thinking about what you’ll say next or how you can provide an answer to the other person’s problem. There is only one Savior…and it’s not you. Pray for God to use you to support other people. Pray He will work through you to help them. Pray for the Spirit to whisper how you can come alongside them. Ask them how and if they would like you to walk with them. Love in action is gentle and compassionate, not overbearing and all-knowing.
Me As a Teenager
So I’ve decided to say yes to speaking with the youth about what it was like for me to be a teenager. I was awkward. I was lonely. At times I was depressed.
But I also had a hope that wouldn’t leave me. I knew God was out there somewhere and I was convinced that I would eventually find Him if I kept looking. I believed there was more to life than my present circumstances, that someday my life would be different. I believed God was calling to me, even in the midst of my sadness.
And I was right. God has chased me down through all sorts of circumstances and called me to Himself. He has been faithful when I have not. He has walked beside me through the darkness and challenges of life and given me a passion for storytelling.
This girl became a woman who is so deeply in love with God she surrendered everything to Him.
Find the courage to tell your stories. It’s how God chose to write much of the Bible. There is power in your story to change not only the lives of those around you but to strengthen your own heart by recounting God’s faithfulness in your life.
Stories are important. Let’s share them.