Stories are precious – are they not?
We all share stories with one another, yet, if we think about it, we only ever share part of our story with others. Even those we are closest to will never completely understand the entirety of our life story.
It’s a challenging privilege to hear and share in the stories of people who are following Jesus, despite their whole world having exploded, often leaving these amazing people reeling from the consequences like shrapnel flying across continents.
Imagine that part of your story involves fleeing as a young adult from an oppressive military regime.
Imagine that part of your story involves being disowned by your own family for choosing to follow Jesus.
Imagine that part of your story involves having to cling to the underside of a lorry for 20 hours in order to search for some sort of freedom in a place where you might be allowed to have a life.
Imagine that part of your story involves arriving in the UK at the start of a national lockdown where everything is closed and you are told to “stay at home”, when home feels nothing like home.
Imagine that part of your story is that you haven’t left your “home” in months and therefore know virtually nothing of the city that you now exist in (many of us have faced this particular challenge over the past year but consider the wider back-story in this case which hugely increases the isolation factor).
Imagine the importance of community and connection if you found yourself in this situation.
At Glasgow City Mission these “pieces of shrapnel” often hit us full in the face. The result is often uncomfortable, overwhelming and awesome (in the true sense).
Every week a group of us meet together for the New Glaswegians Bible Study. This is a group made up of amazing individuals from many walks of life who have newly landed in Glasgow, many of whom are, or have been, in the UK asylum system.
As we meet, I’m struck by the immense power and essential vitality of sharing our stories with one another as well as the fragility of our stories and the challenges in letting others hear them. How many of us have shared something of ourselves privately with an individual, only to have it passed on to others in a way that violated something in our spirits.
When we hear the stories of others, there is a tendency to judge and to try to fix. Something in that is correct, as we look to discern and share in Jesus’ mission to bind up the broken hearted. However, I often think we need to learn to better value and accommodate the stories and the story-telling of others. I have discovered, as we share our stories with one another, that simply having the opportunity to tell one’s story, allows others to enter into the next chapter of that story. This in turn can lead to healing and life.
As CS Lewis wrote:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as a life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit….”
….your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
Let’s hold one another’s stories as deeply precious. Let’s value one another’s stories ahead of our own. Let’s try not to judge other peoples stories but strive to love the person to whom that story belongs, no matter how much or how little of that story we know.
Mens International Worker