The World Has Heard Enough Opinions, It Needs Our Stories

I sat across from an old friend in his basement office, with my clothes unwashed and my hair dreading into clumps. I was homeless, addicted, and desperate. I felt alone and unlovable, depressed and disgraceful. My friend told me about a dark time in his own life, when he couldn't will himself to leave home. He told me about how he grew so depressed and anxious and despairing that he couldn't go out to buy toilet paper and began using dirty articles of clothing to wipe himself. And in this story I found a friend who, although the circumstances where different from my own, could relate to my pain.

This friend asked me that day not to become a tragedy, and those words have followed me for over 15 years.

By sharing his story my friend was able to reach through my wounds and connect with me. By sharing not what he knew, but where he'd been, he was able to walk alongside me.

I forget this often, but the world does not need my opinion. The world is not suffering from a lack of expressed viewpoints. There are plenty of talking heads filling the air with their divisive noise and polarizing opinions. What the world needs is my story, and yours. Our experiences of pain and hope, fear and truth, failure and triumph. Our slow unfoldings of the human experience.

I'm preaching to myself here, folks. 

I am opinionated and stubborn. I attempt to manufacture a sense of control over the world around me by collecting, labeling, and organizing data into cohesive arguments.   I draft snarky rants about world events and get wrapped up in go-nowhere social media debates.  And every time I tell someone what to think I end up regretting it. Every. Damn. Time.

But when I share a piece of myself, open up my life's story to glean the truth and meaning and hope found inside? When I step out in courage to forget what I know and instead share who I am? I am never left regretting that. Never. 

Stories change us, opinions don't.

We've all had instances where stories have changed us where opinions never could. Our opinions on parenting crumbled when faced with the real-life joy and fear and pain of shepherding a little soul.  Our understanding of a political issue grew when we looked into the eyes of the people affected by the policies and platforms.  Our theological leanings changed from feet-on-the-ground ministry in ways a book or sermon never could.

Unless humbly steeped in our experiences, our opinions only ever hurt and divide. But our stories unite us, they reveal what is common and true about the human spirit. Our stories draw us together in ways that opinions never can.

Your stories are sacred. Your tales of suffering and struggling, of growing and learning and hoping, are the ground on which we meet God together.  They contain deep and divine truths, and they create life-changing, honest and fruitful dialogue instead of shutting it down.

Friend, if you want to change the world, tell your stories.

The world is overrun with opinions, but we never have enough stories.  And by hearing your story, I begin to understand my own a little better.

Don't tell us what you believe, tell us what happened to make you believe it.  Show us the places where your inner world and outer world collide, and invite us in to that space.  When you do, we are all made simultaneously more human and more divine.

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