We all have a story. It’s such an obvious statement, but I think we can forget that each person owns a series of yesterdays which influence their today.
This simple truth hit home when I did some volunteer work a while ago. For a month I handed out food and chatted with some of the homeless population of our city. During that time I realised how many assumptions I’d made about people who lived on the streets. And how easy it was to continue making them if I managed to avoid actually meeting them, hearing their story (and sharing mine).
There was the 43-year-old alcoholic who, as a child, was told continually by his father that he wouldn’t amount to anything. And the woman who, like me, once held down a stable job and a pretty balanced life until one day she was involved in a car accident with injuries that lost her that job and the freedoms she once enjoyed. Like dominoes, one tragic event after another led to her time on the park bench.
It’s so easy to cast aspersions on those who seem perpetually on ‘Struggle Street’. And it’s very hard to love and respect people who are mean with their words, no matter what their story. We just want to stay away from them, and understandably so.
But there is something powerful that happens when troubled people (and aren’t we all sometimes?) meet people who love and accept them just as they are. People who just want to pass on the blessings they themselves have been given… People who aren’t afraid to look these hurting ones in the eyes, and offer them time, interest and prayer.
The Bible is packed full of stories, and each of them significant. God is telling his larger story through each person mentioned in Scripture, and he continues to do so today. What are our lives, if not stories that bear telling? Stories which reflect the greatest truth of all. That Jesus came to earth to die, and rise again to secure our freedom, and eternal life beyond the grave.
Our stories matter – yours and mine. And unless we are willing to share them… to invite others into our world… we lose opportunities to give hope. And we miss out on receiving wisdom from, at times, the unlikeliest ones of all.
“Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: ‘Christ Jesus makes you whole.'”
(Taken from the old hymn Tell Me The Old Old Story, by A. Katherine Hankey, 1866.)