Updated: Aug 23, 2022
Four years ago, the church I belonged to at the time was launching a new discipleship program that came out of Mariners Church in Orange County, California called Rooted. I was fortunate to be asked to be a part of the pilot group comprised of the pastors and other church leaders to experience it for ourselves before officially launching it as a church-wide program. Mariners describes the program as "a 10-week small group experience designed to connect you to God, the church, and your purpose." One of the first tasks to do in a small group setting is to share your story. I was perplexed as I read the instructions to "be prepared to share your story" in approximately 8 minutes. STORY...singular. I had a hard time understanding what this meant. My initial response in my mind was, I don't have a singular story. I have a whole catalog of stories. If I were to write them they'd look like a set of encyclopedias. How are people managing this request? Am I the only one who is bewildered by the notion of telling one's SINGULAR story? Being the overthinker I am, I felt a bit panicky.
Though, I should also tell you that I am, without a doubt, a storyteller. I have been since I was very young and was told I would be a great storyteller one day. I love stories. I love history. I love hearing and reading about stories of people who lived long ago and live today. I am a junky, so to speak, of all things biographical. I love memoirs and biopics and documentaries and docuseries. At the time I am writing this, I just binged the entire Janet Jackson docuseries and the Shania Twain documentary AND read the memoir of a former exotic dancer in New York City who entertained presidents and celebrities in the 60s and 70s who I learned about from a storytelling Instagram account I follow, Humans of New York (@humansofnewyork). I gobble up these stories like no one's business. Since I could speak, I retold stories told to me by my parents and grandparents, to my younger cousins or really anyone who would listen. I also ask lots of questions. Because of my personal inquisitiveness, I know more about the lives of my husband's family than he knows.
My dad saw this in me, too. He is also a self-proclaimed storyteller (and very proud of it) and he told me that I'm the only one who seems to remember the details of the stories well so his expectation was that I would be the storyteller of my generation. He made it sound really somber and reverent, like I pulled a sword out of a stone or something.
But those years ago these seemed like an alarming and daunting task. How on earth do I summarize my complicated 40+ years with all of its trauma and triumphs in eight minutes? Impossible. Yet no one else seemed stressed or overwhelmed by the task. I contemplated how far back I should go. Should I start with when I was born? Adolescence? College, maybe? I couldn't think of a point on my timeline that seemed like a good place to start my story of me.
Since that time, I've become accustomed to hearing the request to 'tell your story,' at subsequent church families I've been a part of, and even in non-religious settings. This is a thing now. We tell our story...even though it really includes a bunch of little (and big) stories strung together. It's the gestalt story. The big picture. The zoom out shot, if you will. And now, when asked to do so, I have a general template from which I tell my 8-minute story, though it is certainly much more difficult now because I have experienced a whole lot of stuff in the past 3 years that, in my opinion, need mentioning because they have altered my sense of being in many ways. (Full disclosure: I have not successfully whittled my story down to 8 minutes...my apologies to anyone who has had to sit and endure) I'm now a part of a church plant who one of its core values is sharing your story as it fits into the overarching story of God's loving pursuit of us in our lives. It's one of the many reasons why I belong to this community.
Despite the title of this blog, my purpose of having this blog is not for it to be just about me. I am happy to own this little domain of the interwebs and at the start, I wanted it to be a platform to share other people's stories, even in their own words! So maybe you have no time or patience or desire to start a blog. Fair enough! Clearly, I'm not so great at keeping mine up so this pot won't call the kettle anything. Though, maybe you have a story that you want to share. Maybe you could sit down for an hour or so and write it down or manage a meeting or phone call with me so we can talk about it and I can write it. This is my formal invitation to you all to share a story with me. It might be about you, it might be about someone you love or admire, but it is an important piece of what makes up your story. Please reach out to me. I'm ridiculously easy to get a hold of. Let's make this a collage of stories that remind us that:
God is good.
People are made in God's image and therefore are reflections of his goodness.
We were made to share and connect and then share the human experience of compassion and love.
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing stories that are part of my catalog of stories that make up my singular story and I really hope to share some stories from you, as my guest contributors. Yes, you.