When you tell the story of God’s faithfulness in your life, where do you start?
Do you start with the stories of your ancestors or your parents? Do you start with the story of a trauma, an epiphany, or an inexplicable encounter with the divine?
When you tell the story of God’s faithfulness in your life, where do you start? Or, if you haven’t rehearsed that story in a long time, where would you start? What story or stories would you tell?
In my life, there are a few pivotal moments I return to—signposts of God’s presence along the way.
There’s a dream from my early childhood, a dream in which I was overwhelmed by the feeling of God’s love for me: As I was: As I am becoming. There are the encounters I had with those in hospice beds, those dying and forgotten in the slums of Kolkata, and similar encounters with my neighbours back home in Toronto. Somehow in these encounters, God was viscerally present, unfolding truth at a level deeper than words. There was the dinner party that served as a turning point in my life—hearing words of challenge and affirmation from dear friends—followed by a significant life change. There have been mountaintops and shadowy valleys. There has been much in between. In it all, God has been present.
Of course, life is made of more than moments. The stories of our various journeys with Jesus are more than the highlight reels we share. And yet, as we dwell in these moments, as we remember these encounters, as we consider them in light of our life’s journey and in light of God’s love, they take on new meaning. These stories offer gifts for our own self-understanding. More than that, they offer gifts for other members of our communities.
We live in a world where there are too few places to gather and make sense of our inexplicable encounters with God. Through conversations with neighbours over the years, I’ve noticed that while many have had divine encounters, the church is the last place they’d go to make sense of these things: The last place, not the first.
On one hand that sounds crazy. On the other, does it really?
So often we live our faith as though it is something private. Like sex and politics, we see our religious experience as something that ought to be kept to ourselves. And yet, in a world yearning to know that it is beloved, we haven’t considered the value of sharing our—often incomplete—stories by way of saying “I’ve had such an experience too. It was weird, but I’m a safe person to explore it with.”
In this age where we lament the decline of the church, I believe we are being invited to consider the value not only of our ancient stories, but also the stories of God’s present and active work in our daily lives. Our whole lives bear witness to the God who still speaks today.
For many of us, this is new. For many of us, the idea of sharing these stories may be challenging and uncomfortable. But what is the gospel if not challenging and uncomfortable?
What if your neighbours, like mine, are looking for opportunities to make sense of the inexplicable? What if they are seeking safe places to say, “I had this strange experience the other day, and I wasn’t sure who I could share it with…”
Part of becoming ready for this moment is going through the process of rehearsing our own stories of encounters with God. And so this month take some time, pick a moment or an encounter, and start to tell the story of God’s faithfulness in your life.
How is your relationship with God changing? What do you want people to know about the God who loved you from the beginning, and who loves us all, right to the very end?