Friday, April 11, 2014

have you ever told your 'story'?

Lately it seems like there has been a not so subtle push for me to tell "my story."

As in, I have to.
Not write -- actually speak.  Verbalize.  Out loud.  (FYI: Speaking to groups - without a script - is not my strong suit.)

We joined a community group at our church a couple months ago, and we are now taking turns during our Thursday night gatherings telling our "stories"  --  about our lives and how God has worked in them thus far.  Perhaps about events and/or people who have had an influence on our spiritual journeys. To get to know each other on a deeper level.

Then my sister-in-law Jen recently attended a Christian women's conference in Dallas called Hope Spoken, and in her recap of the weekend it seems that there were so many women telling their stories, or testimonials, of how God has moved in their lives, through joy and hardship.   A few of the speakers even stressed the importance for the women in attendance to share their "story" - whatever that may be. Just like I am being asked to do in my community group.

I'll confess, I am a little at a loss of how to tell "my story" as it relates to my faith in front of a group of men and women.  I've written the "my life series" here on the blog, in which I share a little bit about my beliefs.  I have wrote a few other times about how important Jesus is to my life.  But nothing that I feel qualifies as a "testimonial."

At first I was really excited about the task!  I loathe small talk and enjoy deep questions and sharing real feelings.  But then it came time for me to figure out what I was going to say when it was my turn to tell my story and I basically my excitement transformed into fear and panic.  Forced reflection on my life made me feel grossly inadequate to tell any inspiring story.

Plus, I'm an introvert.  I don't usually throw all the intimate details of my life out on the table.  Especially to people I don't know very well.  I would say I could count on one hand the number of people I am comfortable being 100% transparent with.  1) Jesus 2) my husband 3) my sister.  Yep, that is it.

Yet that is what I am being asked to do.
So I have been making lots of excuses, including:

"Nothing substantial has happened in my life worthy of qualifying as a 'testimonial of faith.'"  

"I'm not a good speaker or naturally 'likable' so no one will want to hear my story." 

"I'm ashamed of certain parts of my life -- I might be looked at as a bad example of a Christian and all the 'good Christians' will judge me." 

"I have built a protective wall around myself/my heart.  I feel safe there." 

"I can't put my faith into words, or my relationship with Jesus.  No one will understand it."

I have written a bunch of notes about what I'd like to say, but I feel like the "surface level version" is boring and trite, and a "transparent version" is too much to makes me uncomfortable...and I fear it will make others uncomfortable, too.

So often I hear people, mostly women, blurt out the personal details of their life with complete ease,  and while I admire their transparency it tends to make me add more bricks to my wall.  It forces me to acknowledge how NOT comfortable I am talking about the ways in which God has worked in my life.  I feel like the way the way God has used me for his good is not exactly the typical feel-good, inspiring stories people like to hear.

Some people have these amazing stories of cancer survival, near-death experiences that strengthened their faith, or perhaps endured the heartache of miscarriage (in the female blogging world especially this is a familiar story that really seems to be a witness and light to other women.)

I have none of these things.  What I do have is a history of mistakes and plenty of personal demons, all of which Satan is probably using to prevent me from speaking about my faith.

Depression.  That one is a regular battle I fight.  Then there is the constant feeling of 'not fitting in' probably stemming from plenty of verbal bullying and backstabbing over the years from other females, many who called themselves my friends...leading to a distrust of female friendships.  A distorted body image. Oh, and guilt from a past in which I did not follow God's plan for my life and lived the way I wanted to...with a million excuses to back that up.
These are real issues, important issues, that I think many women face...but sometimes I feel they just aren't very inspiring to write/hear about.

Or I feel like it is more a story for a therapist, not a church small group expecting this beautiful story of faith.

But maybe I am not the only one with a messy story that is pretty much still writing itself?  Maybe it doesn't matter that I'm not some inspiring heroine that makes everyone stand up and start clapping.   Maybe there are others who can relate to my form of heartbreak.   Maybe it is okay for me to still be getting to the climax of my story, rather already in the lovely denouement?
Turns out the first night I was supposed to share several people were sick so our meeting was cancelled. The following week I had a fever and sore throat so I wasn't able to attend.

Let's just say I am grateful for an extra week to reflect on this.

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Have you ever spoken of your faith journey out loud to a group of people?  If you were asked to tell your "story" or "personal testimonial" of how God has worked in your life - would it be easy?