Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Power of our Stories

A new year. A new group of students. A new batch of stories.

It never fails to amaze me when they start to share some of their stories. These kids have tragic stories and triumphant stories and lots of stories in between.

I'm sure a lot of us have what I like to call a 'normal' story. There's a bit of hardship, there's a tad of rebellion, there's no major upheaval, we learn from our mistakes, grow into wiser versions of ourselves, and carry on.

But there's a lot of stories that don't go like this. They go dark and twisty and lonely. And those stories get me every time.

I always thought I wanted a grand, life altering, 180 story. Because mine is so ordinarily ordinary. I wanted a powerful conversion story, like Paul, so when I testified about God's transforming grace it would be a big story (like God's grace has a measuring stick or something--I know--silly) and move people down to their souls. And in my small thinking, I thought that these big stories would inspire more souls, would catapult more people straight to Jesus.

I always thought I wanted a story that had a lot of ups and downs and hardships because those inspirational people who conquer mountains wield power with their words and their lives seem so much more substantial than my chaotic schoolteacher-wife-mom-of-three life.

But after teaching for a lot of years, I've realized I don't need the hard story. And in fact, it's okay to have a different story. The hard story is hard for a reason. It's filled with tragedy and loneliness and struggle and consequences. And that story isn't the one I have. Instead, I have a lot of young people who are walking out that hard story as they walk lonely down the hallways. And I've figured my job is to walk that lonely hallway with them to be sure that grace and love has a role a story that might be devoid of good gifts.

So there's girls like me: Girls who've gone to church since we could talk and who've loved Jesus and asked for salvation over and over just to make sure. Girls who followed rules because we were afraid not to. Girls who stayed out of trouble because we watched others get into trouble and decided trouble's price tag was too steep. Girls who labor over saying the right thing or the wrong thing, who struggle over motives and image and perception because we don't want to convey the contrary or we're afraid to convey the contrary. Girls who didn't party like the other kids because we didn't see the point and having fun was actually about laughing purely. Girls who were called 'goody two shoes' and were left out of a lot because we wouldn't have done it anyway.  But we have stories too. Ordinary, normal, simple stories.

But there's a steadfast beauty in those stories. Sure, they might not move people to faith or elicit great emotion or change the whole world. They might not inspire others to greatness. But there's a quiet, enduring power in the story of faithfulness, of obedience. And the quiet stories wield their own kind of greatness, their own kind of beauty, their own kind of power. And in the kaleidoscope of all our stories, the tapestry needs the quiet, steadfast ones, too.

Our words, our stories have all sorts of power. Hold all sorts of meaning. And God can perform all kinds of miracles out of our stories. I love that. That regardless of how our story came to be, they all hold the same measure of grace and mercy, because God's love cannot be measured and His grace is not doled out in proportion to the circumstance. It's just poured out in endless and abundant waves. We have access to all His love and all His grace all the time in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.  

In God's eyes, all stories are grace stories. All stories are love stories. And all stories hold equal weight in the hand of God because we are held in the hand of God. And since God is the author of our stories, He must love all of them because He loves all of us. Or maybe it's because He loves us so much that He loves our stories.

Over these years I've been working with young people and listening to their stories and walking with some of them through their stories I've come to realize that our stories hold the power of redemption, of love, of grace, of healing, of grace, of transformation, of humanity. No story is too small in the hand of God. No story is too ordinary. No story is too quiet.

It's not how deep in the mire our story takes us or how broken our story makes us that determines the worth of our story. It's not the magnitude of tragedy or the mountaintop of redemption that dictates the power of our story.

It's Who our story take us to. It's Who brings us from the depths and Who heals our brokenness and Who offers us grace and Who redeems us with love that determines the worth of our stories.

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things made to praise Him (Rom 11:36).
Our stories, who we are and who we become, come from Him because we belong to Him.
Our stories are written through Him and because of Him.
And our stories bring us back to Him.
So that we can praise Him.

Grace Always Rises,

Dear Friends, 
I'm linked up today with some lovely ladies: Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heartand Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory. Drop by and be encouraged.