I recently shared my personal testimony — I called it my “come to Jesus moment” — as a post here on the blog. I’ve done this face-to-face a few times, but never in print (or digitally). It was kind of scary.
I realize that I’ve opened a door I can’t close. I must walk through it. Sharing with others how God wooed and won me is something I’ll continue doing because others need to know they are not alone in their doubt, their stumbling and their confusion. They also need to know how God redeems.
Among the many books I’ve picked up in my search for story-telling guidance is a slim paperback called “Dancing with Words”. I actually bought it a few years ago at a used book store then put it on my shelf. As often happens with books, I had to wait for the perfect time to read it.
The author, Ray Buckley, is a native American storyteller and serves as Director of the Native People’s Communication Office for United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. Reading Buckley’s little book is like taking a course in storytelling. Every page of my copy is highlighted or underlined. Here are a few lines from the section titled “Reviving the First Tradition: Storytelling as Testimony”:
“Testimony must be authentic. It must bleed if cut.”
“Testimonies are those occasions when we say to one another, ‘None of us is alone.’ “
“Testimony need not be dramatic or profound. It does need to be honest.”
Buckley cautions readers that “while testimony is one of the most powerful of storytelling sources, it is also the one that makes the storyteller most vulnerable.”
Because we as humans have a basic need for community, one of the ways we find and build community is by sharing our stories. Sometimes our story is not purely our spiritual testimony, but it involves a common experience which, in the telling, creates a bond with those who receive the story. In a couple of days, I’ll share a few of my own stories with other writers at Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ll also offer a story from Mitch Albom’s book Have a Little Faith.
Here is that story:
Rabbi Albert Lewis, once gave a sermon in which heaven and hell were shown to a man. In hell, people sat around a banquet table full of exquisite meats and delicacies, but their arms were locked in front them and they unable to partake for eternity. “This is terrible,” the man said. “Show me heaven.” He was taken to another room which looked remarkably the same. Another banquet table, more meats and delicacies. The souls there also had their arms out in front of them. The difference was, they were feeding each other.
What a powerful analogy.
Albom’s book is his testimony. Weaving together accounts from his relationships with an evangelical pastor and his childhood rabbi, Albom explores his own faith journey. The reader can feel Albom’s spiritual conflict and visualize his struggles. At the end of his book, we realize he may not have reconciled his doubts about faith, but he’s still on the path.
In the epilogue, Albom recounts a conversation with his rabbi, a friend he calls Reb. They talk about what they would say if they had five minutes with God. Albom says he’d tell God all the things he’d done well then ask “So, Heavenly Father, for all this, what is my reward?”
And Reb responds, “He’ll say, ‘Reward? What reward? That’s what you were supposed to do!”
Albom’s conclusion: “And I think, at that moment, we could have been anywhere, anybody, any culture, any faith — a teacher and a student exploring what life is all about and delighting in the discovery. In the beginning, there was a question. In the end, the question gets answered. God sings, we hum along, and there are many melodies, but it’s all one song — one same, wonderful, human song. I am in love with hope.”
Life stories knit us together, whether to family or to others who just need to know they are not alone. In these 31 days of October, I’ll be exploring the importance of STORY. You can read all 31 days by following the links under “31 Days of Story”. Thank you for joining me!
Tomorrow: Guest Post from Christie Purifoy on Going Home