Thursday, March 7, 2013
where the story leads
A while back a friend of mine did the bravest thing I've ever witnessed. She sat down with her closest friends and pulled out pictures and stories and documents to share her life story with us. It was astounding. Although I'm a counselor, I don't know if I've ever seen someone share her life with such naked honesty and vulnerability. She was responding to something God was calling her to do, and I was among a very few who was called to bear witness. It undid me.
Her story touched a nerve somewhere deep in me, in places I don't like to visit. There was something familiar there. Something terrible and frightening. Something that made me feel angry and knife-edged scared. I knew she was going to share with us and I made a commitment to myself to be present while the words and images flowed over me. I stayed with her story even when it caught in my throat and made me feel like I was drowning. I listened even when something in me screamed to run away.
I'm still listening. I can't get the sounds out of my head.
And I feel grateful.
I'm not angry or resentful that I'm carrying her story around with me now. I love her for trusting me with it. It's something I take very seriously, this bearing witness business. But it's not a passive thing. It takes strength and courage and a willingness to go where the story leads you. I haven't done that very well. I've been afraid to go where this story is leading me.
I traveled far away to the cabin where I get my best work and thinking done. I'm here alone listening to the sounds that are pounding away in my head. I don't expect to get very far. I'm not naive about these things anymore. My story has been unraveling for many years, and it never unfurls easily. It's like a flag that was rolled up wet and thrown out in the snow. If you try to to open the folds before it's thawed, it will only damage the fabric. So I've come to a bitterly cold place on a frozen lake to thaw out a bit. God knows a thing or two about irony.
The breath of the Spirit is so warm. I can feel the droplets of grief pooling around my heart.