Friday, May 14, 2010

Share Your Story

Before we could even gather as a group and pray last night, we strolled up to Del Taco to be met by three guys, one we'll call "Ely" and two of his friends I'd never met. We see  him on a regular basis, but at least he and I don't talk much. He usually seems to be preoccupied with friends or business or going somewhere, so I've never spent too much time talking to him. 

Last night, however, he was in a great mood because his 21st birthday was just hours away, and he was ready to chat it up. He told us how he wants to live for Jesus, but couldn't point out a single thing in his life that indicates that he's trying or believes it's really important. He told us about how right now he's doing things that aren't great and concerned with things that don't matter. 

At about the point I wasn't quite sure of what else to say, Michelle jumped in with her own story of when she stopped living for Christ and started living for the world. She shared how empty it was, how much she regretted spending those years in that way, and how much better life has been since she surrendered it all back to Christ. And about the fulfillment and peace and true joy that has come for living for Jesus alone. 

I already know that sharing our own stories can have huge impact on people. But it was a great reminder to me. Michelle or I could have told him that following Christ produces that joy, that  life is full of blessings when we're living for him and not ourselves, that it's so much better than living for drugs and alcohol or anything else. But when Michelle told her own, unique story, the look in Ely's eyes showed that it had a major effect on him. "That sounds exactly like my story," he said. As she talked and I glanced back to him, his demeanor had changed. He was intensely focused, his eyes looking a bit misty, like something she'd said had struck a chord. 

Just a few nights before, another one of our friends we'd met here called me, having suicidal thoughts and feeling hopeless about his life. Something he said made me decide to share a story from my experience at Columbine High School, and the instance that the thought of God was all that kept me hoping. This made him want to hear the full story of my experience of the shooting at my school. At the end of it all, he said hearing that helped put things in perspective for him. That he'd never been through anything like that and couldn't imagine dealing with that kind of trauma. How it was so encouraging to hear that I made it through without turning to substance, because that's all he would have known for how to cope. 

In my  perspective, all I'd done was share a story I'd told a million times and didn't seem all that extravagant. But to him, hearing my story of pain and trial and how I got through it had a big impact on his situation, and he encouraged me to tell the other people I meet on the boulevard. 
Two simple instances of telling people what we'd experienced...not long, drawn-out, dramatic stories, but just a shared experience with someone who needed to hear. I've been reminded lately that we all have some type of story, no matter how simple or trivial it may seem. And sharing it can have more profound impact than we would ever guess. 

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

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