Power in stories

By the Rev. Elizabeth Murray

Brené Brown says, “Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

We know there is power in hearing each other’s stories. We are intimately connected with other people because of the details we know about them. Brené is right in that it takes an immense level of courage and vulnerability to share one’s story. But is that not what we all want in life—to be known by other people?

One Friday night in December, the Rev. Kristin Dollar and I went to a Hispanic/Latino prayer service at a United Methodist church in Charlotte. We worshiped into the early hours of the morning. There was a time of testimony in the service where people shared how God was working in their life. I was humbled by the vulnerability with which my brothers and sisters shared.

One woman, who has a calling to be a pastor, shared a story about how her life was spared after she was caught in a routine military traffic stop in El Salvador. When the bus she was riding in was pulled over, the men and women were separated into two groups. Each person on that bus was killed that day—except for her. Experiencing a violence that no individual should ever have to, this pastora gave thanks that God spared her life that day so she could continue praising God throughout her life.

Another man came forward to share. One part of his testimony that struck me was his journey to the United States. He shared that he crossed the Rio Grande in a tire, lost all of his possessions and spent time in a detention center.

I was moved by his testimony not only because of the immense struggles he has had to endure throughout his life, but more because of the level of vulnerability with which he shared. Sharing his story with such honesty was brave, allowing us to know him more fully, but also it was brave for him to share his story in front of gringas, or white girls. We could not sympathize with his story because we are United States citizens and because we are Anglos who reap the benefits in our society. However, these factors, of which I became aware and even a little self-conscious, did not seem to deter either one of my brothers or sisters from sharing how God had worked in their lives.

Relationships change things. How would our relationships change with one another if we were brave enough to share our stories, if we took the time to hear from others? How can we create spaces both inside and outside the church that give people the opportunity to be vulnerable and share how God is working in their lives? How might our ministries change if we started to know people who looked different from us?

Each one of us has a story uniquely ours that God will use. Dare greatly, friends.

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