Telling stories of your yesterdays bores some people, encourages some people and inspires some people — embarrasses some people, too. I know, many times through the years, I’ve witnessed the reactions women have when some woman opens her mouth to share her story. I’ve seen it when I’ve shared my story. They’ve heard it all before and they’re weary at the thought of having to hear it ah-gain. People totally write other people off when they’re weary of hearing their stories.
Sadly, as some poor woman begins to utter the first sentence of her story (again), her audience, as if cued to do so, glazes over. They seem to go into auto-pilot as they remain in their chairs, appearing to be listening, but really they’re mentally rehearsing their to-do lists, mentally reorganizing their craft drawers, mapping out their gardens or surreptitiously inserting an earbud to listen to their latest iTune download. And sadly, though it might not seem like it, she probably sees all this, I’ve seen all this.
But she tells her story. Again. I’ve told my story. Again.
This past week in our Sunday Meeting, a brother was sharing the culmination of seven year’s of prayer regarding a matter he’d been dealing with and how the Lord worked so mightily and so mercifully in his life and on his behalf. And then he shared a most encouraging and instructive admonition. And it was this: when someone’s going through something, when someone’s dealing with something, listen to them — listen to their story — even if you’ve heard it all before — even if you’re tired of hearing it. Listen to them… because even if it is tiring to hear the story again and again, the person telling the story is still going through the trial — still dealing with a struggle, a heartache, a sorrow — whatever. You might want to just move on… but, truly, if they’re still in the midst of a trial… they’re not moving on yet. And if you hang in there with them, then when the trial or the storm passes, you will be able to sincerely rejoice with them.
To ignore them or to apathetically check out as they’re talking is just as bad as saying: “Been there, Done that” when a person describes something they’re facing. The been there, done that phrase is really so selfish and disrespectful — though meanness or disrespect is not intended, it feels that way to the one sharing the story.
And so it is with the woman who is telling her story – in this case, about CSA. Especially if it’s just recently that she’s begun to risk revealing her story – her past – and her experiences because of it. It’s a terribly risky thing to do – the telling of the story. Because, by now, she’s faced the truth, she’s risked not being believed, she’s risked being harmed (further), she’s probably told on the perpetrator, she’s come out of the shadow of silence and shame and now she’s daring to be vulnerable with her hearers. Maybe even again. And again.
In the telling of her story, she’s risking judgment – real or imagined. She’s risking ridicule – real or imagined and, further, she’s risking her own feelings, her own suppressed memories, suppressed anger and fear coming to the surface all over again. Those things feel real — not imagined and the risk is real — not imagined.
What she doesn’t know going into it is how the Lord is using the experiences in her life in the lives of others. What she doesn’t know is that God is so big — so great — so merciful — that because He never wastes a thread, He can and will use what she’s gone through — what she’s going through and He will continue healing, working and reworking in her so that her life reflects His glory.
We rarely see that our sphere of influence is much greater than our sphere of acquaintance and the story we’ve told today, in a roomful of seemingly apathetic hearers, just might have fallen into the tender ears and heart of a sister who has a story she’s afraid to tell. The telling of the story may be just the encouragement she needs to muster the courage to tell her story.
If just one sister is helped, then the risk was so totally worth it.
If just one woman is helped by these CSA blog entries, then it’s all been worth it to me.