What's my take on Our Shared Stories Matter? Getting our pains and our joys out there for others to hear helps us gain perspective that tells us, "this is seriously devastating, after all," or "sounds like another routine incident" ...nothing to be concerned about. Interesting that sharing tends to be a church-related word and also common 12-step group terminology.
You've probably heard "show your wounds; a lot of healing will happen." Tell your own story! People will relate! I find it annoying when someone does their best to outdo others with their own life stories, yet leveling and connections still happen whenever we discover someone else has been through the same thing. I've always had trouble talking about myself—even in psychotherapy where the client is supposed to be the main subject of conversation. More than ironic since I've announced "I crave an audience the way an addict craves cocaine." As a little kid my life ambition was to be famous! However, performing music in public, displaying my art, facilitating Sunday School all legitimately make me everyone's focus, though I do my best to hear everyone's voices and ideas when we discuss scripture. I want to tell more of my story online and in real life, but I fear being misunderstood or trivialized, which actually has happened more than a few times. Have you ever been misunderstood, despite your attempts to be carefully clear?
Back to stories that matter.
We find the four new testament gospel narratives packed full of stories about Jesus, his followers and others he interacted with during his public ministry. Jesus listens to people, attends to their illnesses and their concerns. Luke's gospel especially emphasizes Jesus' eating, drinking, partying with strangers, friends, outsiders to his group and outsiders to society. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know more about his earlier years, his family life, the neighbors who influenced him? Jesus often explained a practical or theological point – for him, the theological always was practical – by telling a parable that's a type of story that contains examples sometimes fairly easy to interpret, sometimes extremely obscure.
The baptismal word our in stories matter is about togetherness, community, and belonging. Last Wednesday Kristin didn't blog because her son had sustained serious burns, yet when she posted on social media people immediately showed their concern; many started praying because Kristin's family had become part of their shared experiences, a part of "our" that mattered to them. She revealed some details rather than saying something vague so we'd know an appropriate level of concern; also, people like to be able to pray for specifics, though everyone knows God already knows.
God is the author of every one of our stories, though it can be a challenge to discern how God is leading us to newness through some situations. You know what? Our stories matter to each other, and because our stories matter to God, God will bring new life and resurrection from the bleakest, the most discouraging, most humanly hopeless circumstances imaginable.
That's my testimony on this Wednesday in Holy Week, a day known as "Spy Wednesday" that recalls Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and helps us look forward to Easter Sunday and trust new beginnings will be God's final answer to all the betrayals we've committed against other individuals, against society, against creation; resurrection from the deaths they've caused will be God's response to betrayals committed against us. But on Thursday, the day after Wednesday that's prior to the day of resurrection, Jesus invites Judas – and all of us – to his Table of Grace and Reconciliation. Sin and betrayal were parts of Jesus' story that mattered to God and to us. Sunday's coming, and this coming Sunday will be a special celebration of the Day of Jesus' Resurrection because our stories matter to God!
PS For fallen humans, appropriate behavior becomes far more complex. We always eventually can forgive, but sometimes reconciliation is plain unhealthy, so we need prayerfully to consider whether or not we'll break bread with our enemies and betrayers, whether or not we'll even casually socialize with them—let alone party. As the apostle Paul insists, indeed we are "in Christ," clothed in his righteousness, but we're not Jesus. Really we're not.