I see my story in your story.

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, 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.



There's been a lot happening lately...from the beautiful lives lost in Charleston (Also, did you know six black churches have been set on fire since this happened? It hasn't been all over the news, but it's real and it's happening. Check out #whoisburningblackchurches on Twitter), to same sex marriage being legalized, to the affordable care act being upheld, lots of conversations happening, bringing "issues" to the forefront and everyone having an opinion about something. Also, unfortunately, there seems to be lots of hate going around. I don't really get it and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Something that I've realized in all this rhetoric about different things is how we view each other as "other" or think about people in terms of "us" and "them."

We don't agree with homosexuality and we think marriage should be between a man and a woman so those that disagree or practice homosexuality are "other."

We think the Confederate flag is just part of our heritage and doesn't stand for racism or slavery and anyone who thinks differently is too "sensitive" or "other."

We think "poor people" should just work harder and not take advantage of welfare and "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and those that don't..."other." Aren't we glad we're not like "them"?

We think those "immigrants" should just go back where they came from, they're too "other," they're not like "us."

How often do we step outside of our own perspective and worldview and try to consider another? How do we stop seeing fellow human beings as "other"?

I know I'm guilty of this too. I can see people that are different than I am and they are "other." They're not like me, they don't believe what I believe, they are wrong...therefore, they are "other." It's me against them...whoever them is. It's like it gets engrained in our minds...there's us and there's them.

It once was easy for me to say, oh, homosexuality is wrong and the law shouldn't include same sex couples...until I started having friends who came out and actually entered into friendships with people who are gay and took the time to listen to them and hear their story. It was easy for me to say, oh, racial profiling probably doesn't happen on the scale that people try to say or racism still isn't a huge thing, people just exaggerate, until I started having friends and neighbors tell me their experiences, until I started listening and really opened my eyes to see. It was easy for me to say, I really do care about equality and justice, but it's just too much so I'm going to distance myself from it all...until, I really started seeing the inequality and injustice. It was easy for me to say, why wouldn't people just enter our country legally...until, I started hearing the stories of those that are undocumented and hear about the fear and injustices they live with each day and how screwed up our immigration system is.

These "issues" aren't issues to me, they are people, they are living, breathing, beautiful people with the image of God stamped on them just like it's stamped on me.

Things can be easier when we see people as "other" or when we just think in terms of "issues." We get to have our opinions, we get to see things in black and white, we get to distance ourselves and thank God that we"re "not like them," but is that love? Is that carrying each other's burdens? Is that truly working to see God's Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? Is that truly experiencing the richness and fullness that can come from deep relationships and community? Is that really choosing to love our neighbor as ourself? Is that what Jesus was about? (I'm pretty sure Jesus spent a lot of his time with people who were considered "other")

We need to be surrounded by people who are different than us. What tore down the walls and broke the lens of seeing "other", for me, was relationship and community. It was love really. It was stepping outside of my perspective and my own box. Building relationships and stepping inside someone else's story breaks down the barriers of "us" and "them" creates space for just us.

I wrote a prayer on my bathroom mirror that I read every day because I'm tired of how easy it can be to see the people around me as "other" and I know I have to work to uproot the bias and the indifference in my own heart. I pray that I would be reminded daily that everyone is made in God's image, that everyone deserves to be loved and that if I can even have a small part of affirming that in someone, I will.

It doesn't have to be us and them...we can be part of creating a better story. A more inclusive story. A story where there is no us and them, there's just us. A story where no one is marginalized or made to feel "other" because they are affirmed in who they are and affirmed in the fact that they are created in God's image and are wholly and fully loved.

How does my prayer end? With love...just to love well.


I've been reminded lately how we are surrounded day in and day out by lies. Some of the them are so common and subtle that we don't even notice we are taking them in. Others stare us in the face, but we believe them. I don't want to sit across from a teenage girl and listen to her tell me she will never amount to anything because that's what those around her tell her. I don't want to sit across from a friend and listen to her tell me she is ugly and no one will ever think she's beautiful. I don't want to sit across from a child and listen to her tell me she hates herself.

I hear these things all the time. It hurts me to hear people believe these lies. But then I look at myself and realize how often I believe these lies. How many times have I thought to myself that I am anything but beautiful? How many times have I believed that I will never really do anything with my life?

Lies. Lies. Lies.

I want to sit across from this teenage girl and tell her she will amount to something because she is smart, she has the kindest, selfless heart of any teenager I've ever met, and she loves deeply. I want to sit across from my friend and tell her she's more beautiful than she will ever know. I want to sit across from this child and tell her she is loved, she is beautiful, she was created for a purpose by a God that loves her more than me or anyone around her ever will and she is good.

I want to whisper truth across the souls of these precious and wonderful people. I want them to know they were created for a reason, that they are part of a bigger story, and that they belong to a God who fiercely loves them. I can say this with confidence because I struggle with these very things and I have felt that still, small voice whisper across my soul that I am beautiful, I am loved and I was meant to live and live life abundantly.