Your Story Will Move Them
(original post November 13, 2013)
Last evening I was sitting at a meeting at church with five other men and a woman (who left before we got to the most amazing part of the meeting). The purpose of the meeting had to do with making small groups available for people in the congregation during the week. This can be a time when people get to know each other better and share “life” things. There were lots of different opinions about how to best go about getting individuals to actually come to a small group. The standard fare was discussed – Bible studies, studying a book, prayer, and so on.
At church board meetings we have been discussing the concept that everyone has a story, and that story is about someone who may be vastly different from the person he or she presents at church – the smiling, squeaky clean one. When visitors come to church, they “see” the squeaky clean person, but they know each one of those smiles has a story behind it that is far from the sanitized façade their eyes see. It’s just the way of life. Every life either has or has had pain and suffering, intense storms, embarrassments, frustrations, destroyed relationships, and so on. These are the things that, if shared, move others.
Yet, we pretend that such things may be a part of someone else’s life but certainly not ours. Our smiles and niceties are walls we erect so that we can keep others from knowing the truth – all the while knowing that others know we can’t possibly be the “perfect” person we put before them. Yet, it is our story of “imperfection” that others desperately need to hear. And we each need to hear the story of others.
As I have healed, I have become the “facilitator” of a small group. There are typically six to eight in the group. I have found that my complete transparency concerning every aspect of my life (with all of its failures and suffering) “draws” others out of their shells, and they also share some rather delicate things about themselves.
So, last night, as we were going to end the meeting, I had a chance to share my life in a nutshell – from the little 8-year old boy whose mother died, to my teen years when I left no one touch my heart (for fear they would leave me just as my mother and others had), through the decades of numbing myself with alcohol and drugs, through the grotesque withdrawal from Klonopin (which they all witnessed for two years), and finally to the happy, joyful, calm person I now am.
I got a little choked up at some parts of the story, but I saw right there before me grown men with tears in their eyes. They weren’t really crying for me. I honestly think that, when they envisioned the little boy, the hurting teen, the hopeless addict, and the old guy who was obviously suffering  intensely,  they saw themselves. They saw flashbacks of pain, suffering and hopelessness in their lives. I am certain of it. And one of them is in that place right now, but he still hides behind the façade.
They were not just tears of them grappling with memories of their own past struggles. They were also tears of seeing someone before them who “got through” an intense struggle (which they saw firsthand) – even though they did not understand that struggle. They were tears that we often shed when we see another human being come valiantly through something that seems dooming and damning – something impossible.  I saw it with my own eyes as I sat there.
Our stories, as we heal, are not only extremely powerful to others going through withdrawal, but they are also very moving in the hearts and minds of others who have witnessed our struggles and inner strength and have seen us prevail. When we share those stories, they have a healing effect on anyone who will listen and they give hope and the courage to others to also share their stories – maybe even the ones we hated during our suffering – the ones who would not listen and could not believe us.
We will all have an incredible story to tell when this is over – a story that everyone needs to hear.