Part one of the story series examined the following aspects of story: it’s importance and the listener’s transformative role in the transaction between the storyteller and the listener. In part two, I want to discuss the importance of telling your story.
Between the two main functions of stories – storyteller and listener – we tend to gravitate toward one or another. I know for me, I do whatever I can to function as the listener — not out of some righteous form of humility, but because it keeps me out of the limelight. If I merely listen, the demons remain stuffed in the closet and the joy locked in the cupboard. But any story worth telling requires, at the very least, both functions. As human beings, we must participate in both. And as human beings, we all have stories we must tell, for the stories comprise the very fabric of who we are, and if our stories are stored up only for ourselves, relationships will remain an un-actualized potential.
In Luke 18, Jesus listened to the story of the blind man, and his intentionality in listening to him healed and restored him. But, just as in every story told, Jesus’s listening is only one of the functions. The blind man relentlessly sought after an audience to captivate.
35 As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. 36 Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. 37 They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, 41 “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.
While those who led the way tried to stifle the cries of mercy from the blind man to Jesus, the man knew the power of his story. Perception didn’t matter; what others thought about his persistence did not hinder him from seeking the listener. He knew the transformative power of telling a story and having another listen to it.
The transformation which takes place is not only the one which takes place in his eyes. The transformation which takes place is not only the one which takes place in his heart and life – he “began following Him, glorifying God.” Those two transformations are evident and beautiful, but they are not complete. A transformation also occurs within the hearers on the periphery, the ones who attempted to “protect” Jesus from the storyteller.
You can imagine the statement Jesus makes about the occupants of his Kingdom by commanding the disciples to bring the beggar to him in order to heal him. “Don’t you remember, my beloveds? You were just like him – in desperate need for someone to hear your story, to redeem and restore your life. And I have. Why won’t you let me do it for his man?” The work of Christ through the story of the blind beggar must have been, it had to have been, another measure of grace, another reminder, of the glory of disciples’ King, the one they worshipped with their whole being. Jesus’s healing and admonishment must have been seared into their memory, constantly reminding them of the power of God in the lives of all people. The disciples needed the blind man to tell his story, so they could grow more into the image of their creator and savior.
About five years ago, I began to notice something about myself. I was a melancholy. My natural disposition was reflective which at times lead to incredible (for me) new insights about life and a sincere empathy for others, but its negative inverse was depression and anxiety. I sought help for it, but the counselor I saw essentially said, “Gird up your loins. You are fine.” I was frustrated with his assessment. There was no way I should be consistently “low” and oftentimes so low I was paralyzed from completing the most simple tasks. But, he was the professional, so I adhered to his commands and continued on in my perpetual solemnity.
Two years later, due to certain relational circumstances, the melancholy turned to despair. The pain and depression caused me to isolate myself from my friends and family, leaving me hopeless and alone. The darkness shrouded my heart, soul, and mind. While the darkness of depression and anxiety always permeated a sliver of my life, this time, it consumed all of me. Not knowing where else to turn, I went back to counseling.
By the grace of God, the first counselor I saw intently listened to my story. We began to develop different tools to help me recognize when my melancholy would take control and turn into self-hate. We began to discuss at how my very core, God’s love and grace held me and defined me. I began to try different anti-depressant medication to help curb the intensity of the lows. I began to read the contemplatives of the Christian faith which changed my perception of God’s character. And slowly, the Spirit of God began to transform my view of myself.
Amazingly, in spite of my brokenness and desperate need for healing, a series of people entered my life as I worked through my issues with my counselor who were at the beginning of their own journey. They had recently realized the reality of depression in their life, and all of them felt like they were alone, that in some way their faith was deficient because of their despair. I was able to tell them my story – why I was there, what brought me to it, what I did to bring some relief, and how God was working in my life. God, by his grace alone, used my story to help heal others mired in a similar story.
My story, this particular story, is still in transformation. This struggle of mine persists, and I expect it to persist in one way or another for the rest of my life. But, my story of depression and anxiety, the one I lived and the one I live, is not solely for me. Our stories are not solely for ourselves and our personal sanctification. They are for others. They are meant to be told – the good and the bad. They are meant to be heard — for the edification and transformation of others. They are meant to bring others into communion with the Father.
So go. Go tell your story. Do not merely be a listener of stories.
So go. Go fulfill both functions of a story. Be a passionate, creative storyteller. Be a compassionate, empathetic listener.
So go. Be the blind beggar. Be like the disciples. And be like Jesus.