A couple of months ago I went to a women's networking event at a conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. What happened exceeded my expectations. About twelve of us gathered in a hotel conference room, the facilitators wanted to create a space for women engaged in ministry to come together and share their stories. It became even more than that, it became a thin place. A moment where it seemed like there was just a thin curtain between heaven and earth.
The oldest woman in the group started with her story. A small painting sat at the head of the table, a painting of a small African American girl standing in a field with butterflies. While sharing her story, this woman said, I see myself in that picture. She went on to explain her life growing up in the deep south, her experience with the Civil Rights Movement and how she still sees slavery today, it just looks differently. Every sentence she spoke dripped with wisdom. She saw her story in the girl in the painting.
While another woman shared her story, everything she said deeply resonated with me. Her journey and season of life was so similar to mine, I actually couldn't believe it. Even a song she referenced that had been a lifeline for her in this season was the same song that had been a lifeline for me. I saw my story in her story.
This same woman talked about a business she was trying to start and when she said the name of it, the oldest woman said, "That has been my secret name for God all my years..." without any hint of surprise. They saw one another in each other's story.
Another woman shared her story. A hard story of trauma and abuse that has led to confusion about where she should go and what she should do. She shared her deep hurt, but also her hopes and dreams. There was not a dry eye in the room while she shared. Tears flowed freely because everyone there acknowledged the depth of her pain and the vulnerability it took to let us in on her journey. It was a privilege for us to be entrusted with her story. After she shared, the same wise woman turned to her, looked her right in they eye and said, "I see my story in your story."
Looking in from the outside, one would see our group gathered and think most of us had nothing in common. We differed in age, race, socio-economic level, background, life stage, dress...it seemed our differences outnumbered our similarities. Yet, we could turn to each other and say, I see my story in your story.
Wow. What powerful words. Sharing your story is a powerful thing. Making space to hear someone else's story is a powerful thing - it allows glimpses into another's soul. It makes us more human. It allows us to remember that we're all connected and that we all have been stamped with the image of God. We too easily forget that.