Monday, July 19, 2010

Tell me your story

Emily wrote a few weeks ago about telling a story.  I’d like to explore a different side of storytelling: getting to know your Christian and non-Christian friends.  If we take time to engage our friends in telling us something about their life, we able to put our friends into context and better understand them.

Let me give a couple of quick examples.  My wife and I recently had an older couple from church in our home for Sunday lunch.  The husband told me of feeling like he was being called in the ministry at an early age.  He attended a Christian college and worked full-time to support his family.  One morning he woke up, had a couple of cups of coffee, and never went back to college.  He had been negatively impacted by a young minister who said “every time the doors are open you should be here”.  The minister didn’t understand the stress of college, supporting a family and working full time.  Now the good news is my older friend is still in service to his local church and God.  Since he told me a portion of his life story, I can now better understand, relate to him and fellowship with him.

Over the past couple of years, my wife and I have gotten to know a hard working college student.  Sometimes, it seems as if she never sits down and rests.  While getting to know her, we found out she found her father dead on her birthday after having gone to the store, with her mother, to buy a birthday cake.  Add on top of this, her dad had supplied her with family details in case something happened to him.  So, she was the leader of the family and responsible for taking care of the family.  This background illuminates why she is a very focused and driven young person.  I have no doubts that she will achieve her goals.

Before we can touch someone’s life, we must know something about them.  This means taking interest in their life by listening to their stories.  Without their stories, we cannot understand why they believe something, behave a particular way, or live their life a certain way.  Think once again of the classic example: Jesus and the woman at the well.  We don’t have the full, all encompassing story but we have enough to see that Jesus was personally interested in the woman’s life.  Also, Jesus listened to her words to know more about her.

I believe one of the biggest tragedies of modern life is: we do not spend enough time listening to other people’s stories.  We are so busy with day-to-day activities that we do not stop and quietly listen to someone.  We are creating a task list in our head, thinking of where we need to be or trying to think of a reply to the person’s story that we miss the intimate details and sub-text within their story.  So the next time someone begins to tell you their story put your brain in neutral and really listen.  You just might be surprised by what you learn about the person and their life.

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