Lately I’ve been learning the importance of my story. The need to find and share my voice. I’m a writer, as much as I’ve fought saying those three words, never thinking of myself as a creative. Even though words were my craft, the only thing that ever really made sense to me, my method for processing, and basically my very breath. I just didn’t think I qualified for that creative realm that artists occupy. Not until I started wrapping my brain around the idea of being created in God’s image. You know, God THE Creator. But that’s another story…
As a writer, I’ve been struggling to find license to share the real stuff. Permission to leave my voice on pages in its natural state. Constantly thinking that my words are too raw and unpolished. My writing not nearly poetic enough. My experience average and uninteresting. My story too unimportant. Not worthy of being told.
I spent time looking back through the books that have shaped me over the past few years. You know, those books that make you laugh and cry and aspire to be a better version of yourself. The ones that hit hard and then don’t fade away after you turn that last page and place it back on the dusty shelf. The ones that actually impact you as much as if you had heard their story face-to-face meeting in a coffeeshop.
One of those was Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I skimmed through the list of chapters, all short stories on her experiences of life as a combination of bitter and sweet, highlighting that one without the other just wouldn’t be as beautiful. I was really doubting the importance of my story that day, certain the idea of sharing it, even if only through a blog that few read, was a dumb idea. My eyes spotted the last chapter title, “You Must Tell Your Story.” Well, guess I should read that one, huh?
In five short pages, my opinion on story was transformed. Writer to writer, believer to believer, person to person, Shauna convinced me that my story, along with everyone’s, must be told. There’s no other option. And nothing more important.
I learned from Shauna that story is enough. We constantly invalidate it. Overcompensate for what we think story is lacking. Adding unnecessary fluff and overused clichés. But story, raw, untouched, organic story…is enough. Absolutely enough. People tend to think otherwise, because like me, we assume we are nothing special and that God is doing much bigger, more impressive things in the lives of others whose stories speak more highly of Him or have a more impactful finish. Sure God’s shown up in my life, but he cured that person of cancer. And he redeemed that broken marriage. And he [insert many other cooler stories of God’s goodness and grace] over there.
But if you have a relationship with God, then whatever your story is, God is all up in it, around it, and through it. And that means your story reveals a piece of the bigger story. The story of who God is. His heart. His character. His promises. Chances are, the biggest part of your story has yet to unfold, because it’s how your story when told will impact the lives of others.
We’re all a piece of the bigger story. And the coolest part is that the bigger story isn’t complete without us. Our perspective. Our experience. And our voice. It’s just like a 5,000 piece puzzle you assemble on your dinning room table only to find out one tiny piece was gobbled up by your dog. You stare at what should be a masterpiece, furious at its incomplete state. It’s just not done without that one missing piece. While we may be a very tiny, seemingly insignificant piece of one massive puzzle, the big picture just isn’t complete until you add us into the mix.
Shauna (I really do feel like we’re on a first name basis at this point), explains this:
“The big story really is actually being told through our little stories, and by sharing our lives, not just our sermons, we’re telling God’s story in as reverent and divine ways as it has ever been told. God’s story was told in Hebrew and Greek, and I believe that it’s also being told in whispers and paintings and blogs and around dinner tables all over the world.”
I love this. It’s exactly what The Marcella Project is doing through blogs, salons, and bible studies in wineries. Telling God’s story. Digging into God’s word, yes. But without the common trend of separating it from what God is doing in our own stories. From real life as it unfolds day to day, uniquely for each of us. That’s why I love The Marcella Project. It validates voice and experience. Creating avenues for raw and organic truth…which ultimately makes the conversation relevant.
“Let’s resist the temptation to hide behind theology the way a bad professor hides behind theorems and formulas. We dilute the beauty of the gospel story when we divorce it from our lives, our worlds, the words and images that God is writing right now on our souls.”
I completely agree with Shauna’s take on story. It is indeed enough. Simply because it brings the gospel to life. Reminding us that God is still moving and working today in each of our lives.
As we start a new year, I want to challenge each of you to grow more comfortable sharing your story. In whatever shape or form that takes. Maybe that’s in a blog post or while teaching a classroom. Or during a small group or bible study. It could be at coffee with a friend or in conversation with a whole group at a dinner party. Boldly validate your experience by telling your truth. Accept your role in the bigger story by believing your story is enough. And sharing it with others. Because…
“If you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have within you all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world. Your story must be told.”
Will you tell it?
Jessie is a 22-year-old and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. She loves to challenge convention, enjoys thinking critically about the world around her and homes to be a counselor for trauma survivors. Her favorite thing to do is to travel to Africa and work with women and children who have been affected by war. Recently she graduated from Clark University and moved to Nashville to work with exile international, a ministry committed to empowering children of war become leaders of peace.