Tell Your Story

12:11 PMHeather

We sat on the couch, discussing the loss of someone she knew. As she described the circumstances, I told her part of my story. She nodded as we found solace in the common ground of loss. I shared my story because I thought it might encourage her. Because I know the comfort of shared experiences. I know the loneliness born from walking a hard road where others are too timid to join you. I know the only thing worse than suffering is doing so alone.

She has a story to tell also. When she stated that she isn't ready to tell her the full story yet...that she lacks the courage to do so...I tried to encourage her. I reminded her that she tells her story every time she shows up at a friend's house with a letter, a gift, and her presence. She tells her story every time she sits in the silence of suffering alongside her friends and her family. 

For that is the greatest gift we can give the hurting. To just sit in silence, sharing their pain. Staying by their side. Words are not necessary in the moments of sharing someone's grief with them.

The truth is that we all have a story to tell. The truth is that we all, somewhere along the road of life's journey, hit a pot hole. Sometimes we fall into a sink hole that seems to consume us. No one escapes unscathed in this human condition of walking through our days. We all get broken and scarred and battered and bruised.

And we all have a story to tell.

Some of us overshare. I think I tend to fall into that category. Sometimes I feel badly about that. But mostly, I remember the pain of suffering in silence because others let me clearly know that I needed to stop talking. Others were uncomfortable with my burden. My pain was too much for them. So either the subject was always changed subtly, or I was flat out told something that clearly conveyed--"stop talking."  

I hungered--I was desperate--for someone to just sit and listen. Someone to share their own story. I longed for someone to have a story to tell that was similar to mine. Not that I wanted people to have pain, but I needed to find a community with similar struggles. I needed to quit feeling like I was hanging out to dry, all alone. Because it made me feel like a freak.

So I started a group for others in my situation. And for the short duration of our gatherings, we found solace in the sharing of our similar stories. Because it reminded us we weren't alone.

For others, the pain is too raw or too hard to share. To retell the story brings life back to it, and it reignites the emotions and the struggles. In the telling, the burden is multiplied. It's simply too fresh.

But still, I encourage you to tell your story. When the time is right. To ask God to help you tell your story. Perhaps to begin by journaling. Or some other safer way to express your story. Maybe you are an artist and you can create something from the place of your emotions. Or maybe you tell your story by supporting causes for others with your story. Maybe you find solace in rocking babies at a hospital, like someone I know. Maybe you tell your story by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or by training for a 5K or a Fun Run supporting the cause that has become personal to you.

However it looks, in whatever way it feels right, I want to encourage you to tell your story. For though the words are hard and the reality is harsh and the retelling means you are reliving it all, your story is exactly what someone else needs to hear. Your words and your experience validates the suffering of someone else. Your openness and your transparency and your honesty is a balm to the soul of someone with a similar story. 

Your story tells them that you have survived. And they can too. Your story tells them that you get it. It eases the loneliness and the feeling of being the only one suffering in silence. 

Your story welcomes them with a huge hug of understanding. It says, "We have a common ground. Our stories are not so isolated. We can welcome others here, too. Because there is strength in sharing the load together."

So tell your story. Know that it has worth and value and in the retelling--in the welcoming extended when you share your story and invite others in--something amazing happens. Because as you say, "I've been there, too," you find purpose. You find meaning. You find that it was not all a loss because your story gains significance when you can comfort others with it.  Your hard roads somehow find redemption when you can offer your story as a consolation to encourage others who are coming behind you. 

And a miraculous thing happens for yourself, too. When you tell your story and reflect on where you've been, you gain eyes to see where you are now. You have vision to grasp the progress made. You begin to see the incremental, tiny baby steps forward and that your story didn't end back at the point of suffering and loss and pain. In fact, your story suddenly has a beautiful epilogue when you consider the "what happened" with the "where you are now."

So, tell your story. 

And listen for the stories of others. Because no matter the battle you face, you are not the only one. There is a kinship, a club of sorts, made up of others who have been where you've been and who have survived.

If you're not sure where or how to tell your story, let me make you an offer. I've recently asked some dear friends to share their stories here. When they are ready. To guest blog. Anonymously even, with no identifying details if they'd like. Because their first hand accounts have so much more power than my musings.

So, if you need a platform or a venue to tell your story, let me know.  Leave a comment and I'll be in touch. If you know me personally, email or message or text me.

Because your story has meaning and it has the power to impact others. Positively. Your story didn't end at the point the suffering began. In fact, it is still just getting started. Because God is always doing a new thing. And the seeds that died in the soil of your life--whatever that hardship was--they can grow into tiny greet shoots that bloom into a tree that provides shade for others.

So tell your story.

And know that no matter what it is, what was meant for evil, God can use for good. What was awful and insufferable and inexcusable can still find purpose and significance in the hands of a Heavenly Father who says he's never left us and he has never forsaken us. He was there all along. And he will be there forevermore.

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