Sometimes I feel a little weird because it seems like out of most people that I know, I talk about, or at least think about, my past more than what might be considered average. It’s not that I’m wishing for the past or missing it or anything, I just think about it a lot and I have no problems talking about it.
When I was in high school I talked a lot about my childhood.
When I was in college I talked a lot about high school and my childhood.
Now that I'm out of college I talk a lot about my childhood, high school, and college.
For whatever reason, I have always had a strong connection to my past. An ever-present awareness of where I’ve come from and how I got to be the way I am. Maybe it's because I had a lot of traumatic, sorry, formative, events happen in all of those time periods, but whatever the cause, where I've been never seems to be far from me.
This may sound weird, but I often look at my life up until this point and examine it like a case study. I ask myself questions like, “I wonder what this event did to me?”, “I remember this person said this to me and it made me feel like this and I’ve acted a certain way ever since.”
I remember laying in bed at 13 years old and telling myself, “remember what it feels like to be 13, because every adult I know seems to have forgotten, but you can't forget.”
I remember being in love with my now wife at 15 years old and telling myself, “someday when a 15 year old tells you they're in love, don't think they’re crazy like everything thinks of you right now because you know what it feels like.”
I remember being 18 right before my last theater performance ever and my theater teacher put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and said, “I'm proud of you." I remember how that brought me to tears on the spot and I told myself to make everyone I ever encounter feel as valued and important as he had just made me feel.
This mindset has literally been my whole life. Time after time after time taking note on how everything around me worked and how certain things made me or others feel. Telling myself to never forget. I don’t know why I’m like this, but it's the way I've always been.
In Psalm 107, David sings, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” Of course, I didn’t know that growing up. I just heard of that verse for the first time a couple of years ago. But for some reason, that’s always been something that’s been ingrained in me. I've always known that whatever I go through, whatever hurt or success that happens to me, it’s not for me. It’s for others.
The first time I ever shared my story publicly was in 8th grade; way before even half of the stuff that’s now part of my story had ever even happened. I was on a student choir trip with my church in Tennessee. I don't know why, but part of our show was literally just me with a microphone for like 5 minutes and they wanted me to tell my story to the audience. So we did our performance at the church, maybe 400 people were there, I don't remember exactly. And then it was my time to get up and tell my story. So I did. I talked about how my parents started off on a not so ideal situation to say the least. How my dad left at 1, I was taken from my alcoholic mom at 3. How my grandparents raised me and introduced me to Jesus, but how my grandmother, my only real mother figure in life, had just died of cancer a few months earlier, but how God was still with me in and through it. That was it. But when I was done, the whole church stood for me. I turned around and the choir was crying, which of course made the whole next song (which was called Jesus Saves of course) really hard to get through. But I think that's when it clicked for me.
I have to tell my story.
And I think we all do.
And telling our story really almost never looks like telling it on a stage to a church. It really looks like sharing it with someone over a cup of coffee, or in a hallway in between classes, or in the backroom at work. In the moment it's nothing special until you look back on it later or see the person you're telling it to relax or tear up during it. That's when you realize how powerful your story is. It's connecting on such a deeper level. A level under the ordinary, everyday mundane of life. It's soul.
Our story, and how Christ has shown up and redeemed us in it, is the most powerful thing we have. Keeping our stories close to us isn’t just for pastors, preachers, communicators, or writers. It's for all of us. Remembering where we've come from. Remembering what has made us, well, us. Offering our own stories up as living sacrifices to the glory of God so that we might show people God’s goodness and help a few people through the tough things in life that we all go through.
It looks different for everyone. There’s no cookie cutter way of telling your story. Not all stories are the same. But we do all have one. And as a follower of Christ, knowing it and telling it doesn't seem like a thing for some people to do, but for all of us.
So let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.
Tell your story.
I’ll keep telling mine.
We need each other and we’re all in this together.