Just the other afternoon, in a moment of quiet, I “heard”: Tell your story. No need to worry, I’m not hearing audible voices. But I’m learning to pay attention to the words or phrases that often impress themselves on my heart. This is an example. “Ordinary” is another example of such a recent word. Just today, I realized that they actually go together in a beautiful way.
I suppose that my story is really the only thing that I have worth telling. My opinions are fairly irrelevant. The specifics of my beliefs are still up in the air. Anyways, there should be room for different.
The story of my heart is the one thing that I really know. Stories of the times that I’ve caught glimpses of God, glimpses of grace, shining through the ordinary moments of my ordinary life–that is what I want to write about.
Well, shortly after pondering the nudge about story and almost forgetting entirely about it, I went outside to soak in the September sunshine while reading and journaling a bit. I opened up “randomly” to a December entry in Frederick Buechner’s book of daily meditations, Listen to Your Life. It was titled “Our Stories”. Well, that’s funny, isn’t it? I assumed that I was meant to read it.
This is all part of the story about what it has been like for the last ten years or so to be me, and before anybody else has the chance to ask it, I will ask myself: “Who cares? What in the world could be less important than who I am and who my father and mother were, the mistakes I have made together with the occasional discoveries, the bad times and good times, the moments of grace….
But I talk about my life anyway because if, on the one hand, hardly anything could be less important, on the other hand, hardly anything could be more important. My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually. [i]
Does anyone else feel goose bumps?
The people, in real life and through books, that feed my soul are those that show me my story through their own stories. They tell me where I have been, point to where I am at now, and offer a glimpse of where I may be headed. They offer glimpses of where God is at in my story, in our stories, in the collective story of what it means to be human. They show me that we are connected. They show me that I am not alone in this journey of discovering Life and being found by God.
My life is so very ordinary, it would hardly make a good story. No one would ever make a movie about my life. Somebody should make one about my grandparents, but not about me. But it is in the midst of this ordinary life that deep transformation is occurring. In the midst of this ordinary life, God is breaking through. I catch glimpses of it in and through the ordinary things around me. God seems to be offering me words to write even though I am so very ordinary and unqualified. And I am struck by how beautiful it is: that God is pleased to use the ordinary things, our ordinary stories, to break through and make holy our ordinary lives.
Thomas Merton said somewhere: “Life is this Simple:
We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent
and the Divine is shining through it all the time.
This is not just a nice story or a fable,
it is true.”
Let’s share these stories.
A while back, I had an idea. My husband tells me that it would never fly. But I wonder, seriously wonder, what would happen, how the world would change, how the world’s opinion and encounters with Christianity would change, how we would change if we all took a moratorium on shouting out our beliefs about everything, fighting about who is right and who is wrong, and just stuck to telling and especially listening to stories. The stories about how we found God, the stories about how God found us, the stories of grace in the ordinary moments of our ordinary lives.
[i] Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, p. 321-22.