I sat in a nondescript conference room looking at eight individuals I had not previously met. I was simultaneously filled with anticipation and regret, excited over what will come and fear of what it may feel like. This moment of conflicted emotion was the beginning of a two-day intensive led by qualified therapists. We put our temporary fate in their capable hands. These fearless facilitators led us in a process of digging out parts of ourselves we had either covered up or disregarded.
The facilitators used a “Storytelling Liturgy” with four phases: 1) tell your story, 2) listeners reflect how the story made the listeners feel, 3) the storyteller shares how reflection of others have helped to clarify the story, and 4) discussing the combined impact of the storytelling experience. This process was not all sunshine and rainbows. There were moments our “guides” would have to acknowledge the discomfort in the group. They would sometimes have to enforce the rules and demand we focus on what we felt rather than some wisdom or encouragement we’d like to offer.
We took turns for two days, each taking twenty minutes to talk about whatever surfaced even if those parts of our stories had remained elusive for decades. There was immense value that followed as participants took turns sharing how the specifics verbalized paralleled their own stories.
Redemption in Renewal
What’s the point? Why did I spend time and resources for this uncomfortable, deeply emotional process with a circle of strangers? Including two therapists who wouldn’t let me speak until instructed to do so! Dr. Curt Thompson, this cohort’s fearless leader, provides valuable insight on how evil thrives in our complacency. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s covenantal promises to his children. God makes and keeps promises providing for us the power of redemption. This redeeming renewal did not cease to exist when pen was put to paper by prophets and disciples writing the covenantal specifics. His renewal of our hearts and minds continues. And the more we work to receive that renewal the more evil attempts to stall our progress.
If you know me at all, you have heard of Dr. Thompson’s book The Soul of Desire and his podcast, Being Known. I literally need a separate social media account to accommodate all my inspired thoughts and direct quotes from these resources. Dr. Thompson has put into words things we all feel at the core of ourselves but don’t know how to express, much less develop a response. We can’t know all we need to understand without another person’s reflection. Our physical brain needs the healing effect of being seen by others and found acceptable even in our most desperate brokenness.
Each one of us is flooded with emotion throughout the day. How often do we stop and take stock of what we feel and why? Emotion is one of God’s greatest blessings! He gives us this smoke signal informing us something is happening that needs our attention. Our brain is directly affected by our emotion and can even result in additional feelings that are not a result of the original event. It can be very confusing which is why it demands intentional effort.
How do you react when you feel sad, disgusted, afraid, hopeless and aren’t sure why? Most of us simply quote a bible verse or try to move past our pain. We distract ourselves with business, with our responsibilities, work, family, or worse. As a substance abuse counselor, I can attest to the devastation that can result in such avoidance. But even when our sought out oblivion comes through an acceptable avenue it can be equally as devastating.
Find Your Strength
These two days were life changing for me. The reflection of others adjusted my perspective and gave me freedom to experience relationships differently. With others, with the Lord and with myself. We need other image bearers to know us. To see us, understand us, help separate real truth from false internal dialogue. We need the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” to speak gospel truth when our minds are consumed with all that we are not. Find your people, schedule time to hear their thoughts and be heard by them, and don’t let them go.