Tuesday, 18 June 2013

On Community and Why I Love Story

I haven't written here for a while. It isn't for lack of wanting to, but sometimes there are more intense seasons we walk through in life that require rest and recuperation after we experience them. As much as I hate to admit it, I have limitations and seasons of rest are just as important as seasons of productivity. I've intentionally paused from writing here for a couple of weeks.

I have been writing outside of this space, though, and I've been so honoured at the response I have received from those who have read either my stories or the stories that others have graciously allowed me to tell. It is a blessing to me. The reason I love to write other people's stories is because sometimes we can't see the meaning or depth of our stories, especially the painful ones, until someone else tells it for us. I love to be able to give that gift through my words.

The following is an excerpt from a longer essay I wrote recently about learning and how it extends far beyond the classroom. Community and story is what is really teaching us, however subtly, and prodding us toward a deeper understanding of ourselves, our lives, our world. Story teaches us something about being human. When someone is brave enough to be transparent, the impact an be huge. Story moves us.

Community can be an amazing place to learn and grow together but it can also teach us hard lessons in very painful ways.

". . . The truth is that there can be deep hurt within a community and some people draw back from this. I've been this person; the one with the broken trust and guarded soul, wary of groups and people because I've watched good churches split and good friends become cold. I've had the privilege of being wrapped in a wild, gracious, loving community with friends like brothers and sisters to me and I've had to say good-bye to them and break away. I've watched beloved family members die slowly. Through all of these experiences my heart closed a little bit more.

In Writer's Craft class this year my teacher handed me a specific quote after reading a short story I had written and it screamed at me like a siren.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. . . .  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
-C.S Lewis (The Four Loves)

I know I've missed out on rich relationships because I've kept people at arm's length. I can list names of the people who have reached out to me, yet I turned a cold shoulder because I couldn't take the risk. I was wrestling with this issue when I was given this quote and it loosened the noose around my heart a little. It put a crack in the walls I hide behind . . ..

We start each Writer's Craft class with prayer and the moments that we share prayer requests together have become a kind of holy space. Here, we share the burdens we carry or the burdens we see others carry. We spread the load a little between us all and it forms a connection, a shared bond. We sit in a circle and as the burdens and joys are spoken, I always see them falling in the middle and resting on the web of laughter and tears that runs between us and pulls us closer. We learn from the raw experience of others . . .."

I've been learning to be transparent with my own story because so many people have been willing to share pieces of their own honest stories with me. These people have been brave enough to show me the more hidden, broken parts of who they are. This is rich to me and I've learned so much from their truthfulness. I have to be fair and allow you to see what I've learned from my own messy, beautiful story. We weren't made to walk through life alone, but so many people live in isolated pain, breaking from the inside out; it is healing to share the fractured pieces of our narratives as well as the good parts. Sharing our stories is healthy and needed. It strengthens our bond, builds community, and it might even allow us to see a new dimension of purpose to our lives. That is the power of story.


  1. absolutely yes. to seasons . stories . community!


  2. amen. as ann voskamp said on her blog the other day:

    "It’s like if you could see the underside of your life you’d see the God over all the details of your life.

    It’s like we aren’t made of cells but stories."