Surprised (and convicted by) others’ stories

One theme I see as I reflect back on even just the last few months of my life is a recurring sense of conviction. A little voice—more my own than the voice of the Holy Spirit—saying in my head, You have a lot to learn. You have a lot to learn from this person.

See, I tend to judge a book by its cover. And I tend to “judge” a person similarly. Not in the sense that I judge by outward appearances, but in the sense that I may tend to think I have a person all figured out just based on a few interactions. And not necessarily in a critical sense (though I struggle with that too!) but more of a basic habit of boiling things down into simple categories. Oh, she’s a mom like me. Or oh, he’s a quiet engineer. Or oh, she’s a busy doctor. And so on.

And then God surprises me. And he convicts me.

Because each person has a story -– often a story I don’t know a thing about -– and that story offers me something significant. Something I can learn from. Something I am humbled by.

And so I’ve found myself saying, from a place of God-driven humiliation (the process of being humbled), Wow, I had no idea that person survived cancer.

Or I had no idea that person has been privately dealing with extremely painful marriage problems for years. . .  and wow, with such grace.

Or I had no idea that person is heartbroken about a prodigal child.

Or I had no idea that person has been courageously struggling through infertility.

Or I had no idea that person used to be in trouble with the law but now his life has been radically changed by God.

Or I had no idea that person is actively involved with ministry to the urban poor.

I am surprised again and again by these stories. And I am blessed by their telling.

In each case, my quick judgments are shattered. And I realize, deep down, that I have much to learn from this person — this person I’d quantified and summed up in a millisecond. I have much, much to learn.

Because each person is living a unique story, penned by the Author of the Great Big Story we are all a part of.

I’m delightfully surprised by both the dramatic, tragic stories as well as the “normal,” everyday stories. I’m enriched by the examples of others, stunned by the grace and determination I see, and enlivened by the examples of God’s transforming love in lives of ongoing and fervent faith. I’m blessedly surprised by this community of saints – this ragamuffin band.

God, help me continue to listen and learn.

And readers, please bless others with your story.

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3 responses to “Surprised (and convicted by) others’ stories

  1. Kelli,

    Thanks for putting this out there. I too, am constantly amazed by others’ stories. I’ve found, though, that unless I am willing to share at least a tiny little peek into a corner of my own life, I am seldom even given the opportunity to hear the amazing work God is doing in someone else’s life. Someone has to be willing to put themselves out there first…one story leads to another…hours pass…and there we each stand, in awe of the work God is crafting in our lives. Or, someone shares a tiny bit of a story what God has done in their seemingly unique situation, then weeks or months or years later, the situation rears its ugly head in my life or someone else’s life. Who knew? Who to turn to? Then the remembering comes…then the sharing, the openness, the healing begins.

    I spent some time this weekend with a friend who is experiencing some very difficult challenges in her life right now. She called me out of the blue. I had no idea what she was currently going through. But because I had shared some parts of my life openly with her some time ago, and because she also knew that I was walking with God, she felt I was one of a very small number of people she could turn to. While we poured out our stories to each other in Panera, in walked a very dear friend and her husband. That friend had been someone I had turned to not once, but twice in my life during life-altering circumstances. Why? Because she had been someone who experienced difficulty, relied on God, and lived out her life with grace and strength that can only come from God, in spite of the hand she had been dealt. She was an amazing picture of the hope and possibility of a future life for my friend who is still in the midst of despair.

    As I left Panera that morning, I stood in awe of literally seeing the torch of hope, healing, and faith in an amazing God passing from one woman to another to another. That doesn’t happen from going to church and listening. That doesn’t happen from reading the bible. That doesn’t happen from praying. That only happens when those things happen first, in addition to a willingness to get messy and share lives openly and honestly in community.

    My lesson learned: ante up, put yourself out there, be available, listen, and share! Don’t waste a single tear, don’t waste your pain. Allow God to use it for His better and bigger purpose.

  2. Mine is not to judge… I repLay this comment often and feel like kicking myself when I get sucked into “judging” someone or other- M-M-M

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