I love stories. Fiction, non-fiction… I love them all. I love getting lost in an imaginary world, becoming part of the main character. My absolute favorite stories, though, are the everyday ones. Normal people doing extraordinary things in their otherwise average lives. Little stories that make me feel better about the people I share this planet with. Stories that restore my faith in humanity, or make me feel like I’m doing better at this thing called life than I thought I was. I need to hear stories of people who are struggling with the same things I am. It helps to know I’m not all alone, and I might learn something from their story.
We all have a story to share, no matter how mundane we may think our lives are. We all have stains and scars and victories and life lessons. We all have wisdom, but we have to claim it.
We have to own our story… our whole story, before we can share it with others and make an impact in their lives. And before we can find joy in our own journey. If we run away from our scars, we spend our lives stuck in a mire of shame and pain and darkness. When we share our story with others, we bring it into the light of truth and claim power over it.
In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brené Brown says it this way: “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Exploring the darkness is scary. It’s hard. I remember camping as a kid and having to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. It was terrifying! Not knowing what was hiding in the woods, out of reach of my puny little flashlight. Tripping over branches and rocks in the path. Hearing the strange sounds in the darkness. I had to be brave.
As we explore and embrace our own messy stories, we have to be brave. There will be branches and rocks on the path. Fear will get in the way and make it harder. I believe that it is usually fear that keeps us from owning and sharing our stories.
We are afraid that if we really claim our whole story… the good and the bad… it will show we are not a good person, not worthy of love and joy.
Oh, my friends, this fear is such a lie. Just like my screaming voices telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m a burden, that I’m too broken to do or be anything worthy of God’s love. Lies. You are worthy. You are loved. You are a child of God, handcrafted to a purpose only you can fulfill.
Psalm 139:13-15 New International Version (NIV) 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are His creation.
John 1:12 New International Version (NIV) 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
YOU are royalty. Daughters and sons of the Most High, the king of kings.
Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God has a plan for YOU. For you, no matter how broken you feel.
Luke 12:6-7 New International Version (NIV) 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
YOU are worthy. You are not forgotten. Don’t let satan tell you otherwise.
We are afraid that if we share our whole story, we might hurt someone we love.
A major part of my story is my parents’ divorce. When I share that story, I am very careful not to paint them in a negative light. But I’m honest about it. I’m honest about how I felt and what I went through. I’m honest about the forgiveness and understanding and love I have for both of them. That honesty has allowed me to own that story. To learn from it. To recognize how it has shaped my ability to understand the hurt that others are feeling.
We all make mistakes. We all have been part of someone’s story of pain. But there is forgiveness and grace and love that conquers all.
Fear of judgment keeps us from sharing our real stories, from being honest and authentic.
Society expects us to put our best foot forward. We feel like we are supposed to have it all together and under control. We have to be the perfect CEO, wife, and mother. We can’t show our weaknesses, our messiness. So we put on a happy face and pretend. Pretend that we aren’t hurting or lost or just plain tired.
When someone asks “How are you doing?”, we say things like: “Fine. Great! Really well.” What are we really thinking? “I didn’t sleep last night, because my kid wakes up every hour and a half to ask for a snack or a drink or a story or a pony. I wish my dog hadn’t peed in the kitchen right before I walked through with my socks on. I was running late and didn’t have my best mom moment this morning. I feel really trapped and stressed at work right now.”
I want to challenge you. Challenge you to answer honestly. I’m not saying you should pour out your life story to the cashier at the local Walmart and every stranger you meet. Just pick one person. One person you feel safe with, and tell them how you really are.
There is freedom in authenticity. Freedom from the bonds of expectations and opinions. If we can find our value and identity in Christ, the opinions of strangers fade away.
We must own our story to find our joy. We must share it to find freedom and help another human in their journey.
When we choose to be brave, the story we share can change someone’s life. If my friend hadn’t shared her struggles with mental illness with me, I may have never gotten the help I so desperately needed. Her story changed my life. Altered my course.
The story we share doesn’t have to be profound to make a profound impact. Our everyday stories can change the course of someone else’s day. We can choose to share our failure and our messiness with others going through the same thing. We can choose to say things like: “We’ve all been there. We’re all in the same boat.”
When we find the courage to share our stories of inadequacy, we can comfort another person who really needs to hear that they haven’t ruined their life or their child’s life or their best friend’s life. We all need this. Every. Single. Day. We all need to lift each other up. To share our struggles. To hear that we are not alone. To hear that we are doing a good job, despite our mixups and our shortcomings. To hear that we are worthy and worthwhile.
There is a quote that says: “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” I love this, but I would add to it. We are all broken, that’s how the light gets out.
Embrace your brokenness. Cherish your stains and your scars. Share your story with those who need to see the love of God shining out through your broken pieces. You. Are. Beautiful.