By The Rev. Will Starkweather
When I was a child, my mother read me all kinds of stories. My favorites were the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or Robin Hood and his Merry Men. I loved the adventure, the danger, the gallantry. For my mother’s part, she loved that the heroes of these stories were examples of the kind of person she hoped I’d grow up to be: brave, loyal, just, compassionate. I like to think her plan worked and I turned out pretty okay. And while I know I owe a lot of who I am to the example my parents and other role models set, I’m sure being steeped in these stories didn’t hurt.
At some point, it became important to me not just to see ideals in stories, but to find myself in them too. I’ll never forget the first time I really saw myself in a story in the Bible: Jesus came to the country of the Gerasenes and the first person he met was a man who lived among the tombs who “was always howling and bruising himself with stones” (Mark 5:5). Some people saw a demoniac. I saw a man who struggled with self-injury. I saw myself. When Jesus met this man with compassion, I felt it. When Jesus healed him, I saw hope. When Jesus told him to share his story with others, I knew I was meant to do likewise.
Stories Have Power
Stories have so much power. Sometimes they help us identify an ideal that we want to strive for, like the chivalry of those Knights of the Round Table. They can show us ills and injustices that we want to strive against, like Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But I think the greatest power that stories have is when they help us see ourselves in a new way; when we identify ourselves in the story and learn something new.
We all have stories to share. Stories of triumphs and trials. Stories of hurt and of healing. We write these stories every day, with every choice we make. The question, really, is what we do with them. Do our stories just sit on the bookshelf collecting dust? Or do we share these stories so others can find themselves in them, and in doing so, find hope?
A few years ago, I had the chance to share my story with a whole stadium full of young people. A story about how God took something in my life that had caused me so much pain and so much shame, and showed me just how much grace God has for us. It was, all at once, the most exciting and most terrifying 10 minutes of speaking I’ve ever done—and I do a lot of speaking! If I’m really honest, I wasn’t entirely confident about sharing something that personal in such a public way. But I’ve been reminded so many times how important that was, with every person who has reached out to share that they found themselves in my story. For the first time, someone talked about what they had been struggling with, and they found hope.
Everything we have is a gift from God. We talk so often about time, talents, and treasure, but the same is true of our testimony. Our life stories are precious and powerful; they are holy and give hope. Finding yourself in a story can move you from isolation to connection; it can literally be the difference between life and death.
In Acts 3, Peter refers to Jesus as “the Author of life.” Your story is still being written, Beloved, and the One who is writing has a purpose for you. May you share your story, that all who hear it might know grace, peace, and hope through you.
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About the Author
The Rev. Will Starkweather serves as pastor at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Sugar Land, Texas. He has a passion for exploring recovery issues through the lens of faith and empowering others to find healing through sharing their stories.
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