My eight-year-old daughter recently wrote a children's book. By children's book, I mean it was several pages of notebook paper stapled together with a hand-drawn cover and a storyline that included princesses, Legos, and the television show "Chopped Junior." All things considered it was actually pretty cool, and I told her so.
"Em, this is great! Seriously, I love how you took all the things you're kind of obsessed with and built an entire story around them. A story that actually makes sense! I think we should turn it into a real book. Maybe you could give it to your friends for Christmas."
I was expecting a response that included something along the lines of "Mom you're the most brilliant mom in the history of all moms," and "Yes, and when we can start?"
Ummmm...aca-SCUZE ME? (Side note: does anyone else find it extremely difficult to simply utter a dramatic "excuse me" after watching Pitch Perfect 1 & 2? Just me? Okay then.)
"Sorry, what? I don't think you're following me here. I'm saying we should make it an actual BOOK, like, with a hard cover and real pages and stuff. Your story. Turned into a book. Get it?"
She kinda shrugged her shoulders and sighed a very dramatic eight-year-old-type sigh.
"I understand, but no thank you."
I was flabbergasted. This is the kid who loves art and books and ATTENTION, and I was sure this was a great idea that would really build her confidence and encourage her creativity.
After pushing and prodding for a few minutes, I started to understand. It wasn't the turning-it-into-a-real-book part that she was opposed to. It was that she didn't want to give it to anyone. She was afraid people wouldn't like it. She was afraid of her story not being good enough. She was afraid of people reading her story and then rejecting her because of it.
Her story was a representation of her heart, and the truth is, anytime we put our stories, our hearts, out there, it's scary. Yes, hers was one of fiction, and it told a tale of a princess who met a Lego Avenger who competed against her on Chopped Junior, but it still represented her heart.
We all have stories to tell, and all of us deal with fear when it comes to sharing our stories. My daughter was afraid, and she wanted to keep her story to herself, tucked away, safe and unshared.
Do you feel safe keeping your story tucked deep away in the recesses of your heart? Maybe so. Sometimes it feels easier to put on a happy face and only share the pretty parts of life with others. Maybe you've convinced yourself that nobody would ever want to hear about your struggle with _________. Your addiction to _________. Your abuse-laden childhood. Your marital crisis. Your struggle with depression. Your crisis of faith.
Maybe you worry that if you share your story, people won't like it. That they'll reject you because they'll be forced to confront your imperfections. Maybe you'll be forced to confront your imperfections, and that simply terrifies you.
Whatever your hangup, I want to encourage you today: God gave you your story, and it's not to be tucked safely away. He uses the pretty parts of your story, to be sure, but He uses the ugly, messy chapters in even more profound ways. Your life, my life, are meant to tell a bigger story, to point others to a gracious, glorious, kind Father. Our best moments point to Him. Our worst moments point to Him. Not a single moment is wasted.
If we keep our stories hidden away, though, if we play things safe, we miss the chance to play a role in God's bigger story. We miss the chance to show others what a great God He is, that He could take messes like you and me and mold us daily into the image of His Son. We miss the chance to help create a culture of vulnerability in God's people, because vulnerability breeds vulnerability, and your courage to share will give someone else the courage to share. And so on and so forth.
Also, nobody ever said following Jesus would be safe, did they? Actually, I'm pretty sure Jesus Himself said that it would be pretty dangerous (John 15:19-20, 2 Timothy 3:12). It's also the most amazing adventure you'll ever take, and it's worth every risk you'll ever take.
Jesus was the master storyteller. He used stories to teach because He knew that stories connect with people in a profound way. And today, 2,000+ years later, your story will connect with people in a profound way.
The best part about sharing your story is that it can be an everyday part of your life! You don't have to write a book about it or share it from a stage in order for your story to make an impact on others. Share it with a friend over coffee! Open up to your Bible study group about the beautiful and the messy parts of your life, and watch God work. Tell your children about your life, about the good, the bad, the raw and honest, and allow them to see a real-life example of God's redemption in you.
Share. Your. Story. Be a Matthew 5:14-16 light for a dark world. Don't hide what God has done and is continuing to do. Your story doesn't have to be finished, tied up neatly with a pretty bow. It can still be messy, because He is still at work, and He will be until the day the final chapter is complete and your book closes. Our stories, the ones that highlight our imperfections, in turn highlight His perfection. And people need to know about His perfection.
On that note, I want to let you all know that I actually did write my story down, or a portion of it anyway. My new book, #FeelFreeToLaugh, comes out this Monday (10/3/16), and I couldn't be more excited! The book highlights my journey through the early years of motherhood, and I hope you'll read it and that it will serve as an honest example of God's refining process in the life of a struggling mama. I'm a hot mess just doing my best, and He is so faithful to help me look a little more like Jesus every day; He wants to do the same for you, too!
Check it out on Amazon on Monday, and order a copy for you and a few for your favorite mom friends. Rumor has it that #FeelFreeToLaugh is the hottest Christmas gift idea for moms in 2016 (so yes, I started that rumor...a girl's gotta try her hand at marketing, people)!