With every face you see, hand you shake or voice you hear comes a story.
I consider myself sort of spoiled in the story-receiving world. I hear about so many tragedies and victories, faiths and follies, cultures and worldviews.
Everyone has a story– it’s their life and the ongoing journey they must be on.
Upon swapping stories with so many people of all ages, faiths, and cultures, I’ve realized that the specific stories we choose to speak aloud are exactly what define the ongoing narrative we tell about our own lives. Do I continuously share stories of pain, hope, wondering, learning moments? You can learn a lot about someone’s life and perspective on the world simply through listening well to their ongoing narrative.
Let me tell you a few stories I hear.
Middle-school girl friends– one from Iraq and the other from Afghanistan– have become afternoon hang out buddies and friends of mine. I recently invited them into a card-making session with me, asking for their artistic assistance in my efforts. They showed up at my door on a Thursday afternoon, informing me that they were ready. Upon coming in and settling down to a table around some iced tea and pistachios, they each began to switch off telling me stories of family members they had tragically lost in their home country years ago and how they perceived those happenings as young children. I listened. We shifted from the murder of an uncle to two older cousins committing suicide. They were treating the stories as light, factual statements. My question to them was. “Do you think its okay to commit suicide?”. “No!”, they responded. “Why not?”, I inquired. “Because we are all on a journey that we must live out.” Thus says a 12 year old. Stories continued and eventually they asked out loud, “Why are we talking about these sad things?”. I shrugged my shoulders to give them the space to answer their own question…and they did. “I guess everyone just needs to talk out loud about these things some times and be listened to.” Smart girls.
A single Afghan gentleman whom I met through World Relief approximately one year ago has a profile picture on his messaging account that says “Worship the Creator, not the Creation.” This photo sparked a conversation between us that allowed for spontaneous contact until finally we got to invite him to a June fellowship dinner held in my apartment. The young man graciously bent against the Afghani way of being treated as a guest and brought some food and donated a sufra (an eating mat for the floor) to my household items. He lives with a few other Afghan Muslim men, but expresses a desire to have intentional conversation with those of other cultures and faiths than just his own. His request after the iftar dinner was that I send him a digital picture of our group so he could send it to his family back in Afghanistan. I later inquired how his family responded. He told me how happy they were to see him looking so at ease and content. He also told me he felt like he was at home at our iftar fellowship dinner that night.
A story recently shared with me all the way from Southeast Asia: A Muslim man who has come to faith in Jesus told a friend of mine, “There is a saying that during Ramadan demons are chained, the door to hell is closed and the door to heaven opened.” Then he said, “So what about the other 11 months? Ah, that is what Jesus means to me. For with Jesus all through the year the demons are bound, the door to heaven is opened and the door to hell closed.”
These are just a couple. Are you listening to the narratives of people God has placed in your life? Are you wondering about their relationship with the God of the universe or trying to better understand how they see the world you both live in?
How enriching it truly could be if we paused to listen to the stories being told (or wanting to be told) and then subsequently let our hearts, minds and discerning spirits interpret the narrative flowing out of each human we know–each human that God created and loves so, so deeply.