This post comes from a Bible Study the ladies in our church did this summer. It was about Telling Your Story. We talked about different ways of sharing your story with others. Practice, be concise, tell the before, during, and after. It helps you to stay on task. Don’t keep listeners away by saying things like, “My life is pretty boring, but here goes.” “Well, everyone has it tough in their teen years…” In doing so, you’ve already interpreted the story for your listeners.
Be a good listener. The story teller is giving you a gift, don’t squander it. We’ve all experienced the awkward silence when we’ve finished sharing and we’re staring at a group of people. Be the one that says, or at least your face is saying, “thank you, I want to know more.” Don’t stare blankly like you’re bored or too proud to be moved. Allow others’ stories to impact, inspire, disturb, and disrupt you. Ask questions, be curious, and most importantly, be kind. Don’t comment with belittling explanations: “It isn’t that bad.” “You should have done this.” “If you’d only prayed more.” Don’t hijack someone’s story by saying things like, “What you just shared reminds me of what happened to me.” Then finally, don’t gossip and call it sharing a prayer request.
Out of this study came my story.
After giving my life to Christ at age 11, almost 12, I had the greatest Sunday School teacher ever! I would tell him these ideas I was having, or ways that I thought God was speaking to me. He helped me to realize at a young age that God was calling me to work for Him. I joined the youth choir, and was involved with everything I could get involved with at church. I used to go to church when no one else was there and try out all the musical instruments. I confess. It was me. I’m sure to this day the organist hated me, but it had so many interesting settings.
I got married a few years later, and continued my call to be a good church member. Still thinking there was a little more to it than that, I joined the choir at the church we were attending, and thought, “This is it! This is what God wants me to do!” For 23 adult years I felt like I was answering my call. Singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School classes, or leading a Bible Study, keeping the nursery, whatever I could do at church to help out. I served as church treasurer, and eventually, part-time church secretary, but singing in the choir turned Praise Team gave me the most joy! I was on top of the world, looking down on creation. No, that was Karen Carpenter. (That’s the part about staying on task I didn’t get)
One day I was asked to sit down. To no longer sing. To not come to practice. Don’t show up early. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Those were his exact words. I’ll never forget the feeling I had as I sat there and listened to those words as two of my friends acknowledged that this was the right thing. I could still attend, but not serve. It was disconcerting to sing along in the congregation. Worship was all but impossible. I would think about the words I was singing, and how I didn’t feel what I was singing. I had been stripped of my joy. The idea that I had been rejected was overwhelming. I sat in the congregation for 6 months thinking, “So what happened to my calling, Lord?”
While attending a bible study outside of church, the group we were meeting with decided to plant a church. We went through several Worship Leaders, and no one seemed to work out. Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention “, so I volunteered to lead worship while we searched for a real Worship Leader. At first, that’s all it was, I was filling in until we could find someone. I enjoyed it. A lot. I felt so comfortable singing again, sharing scripture, and leading others to a place of worship. It took some time, but I finally realized…this was my calling, this is what God was leading me to do for so many years, and I was either not willing to yield, or I wasn’t ready. I had to be broken in order to be repaired.
It’s been an ongoing process for me to trust that God cares about the pain of that experience, and then lowering my defenses to open my heart to care, and repair. Opening my heart to forgive was easy. The forgetting part took a little more time. It still creeps up from time to time.
There is SO MUCH more to the story, and maybe during this blogging experience, the opportunity will present itself for me to share other things that led to this revelation, and ways that God has worked through my ministry since.
What’s your story? Everyone has one. Claim it, live it, love it, share it, and invite others to do the same.