Your Story is Not My Story

He’s sitting on the floor. Black and white photos on the screen above him show happy faces and far, far off places. Places I have certainly never been and a kind of smile that has never stretched across my face. He created a playlist for this event, something I am highly inept at. Before us, he spread out his favorite records and a keepsake or too. I have never owned a record. To cap it all off, he sings us a song he wrote and plays his guitar. I struggle to reproduce words that are not my own in a pleasing tone, and I certainly cannot play the guitar.

We are not the same.

But more than these outward showings, we do not have the same story. He has lived in more countries than I have ever visited. His family is close and warm. I am not sure mine knows me yet. He grew up with a profound desire to seek beauty and I am ever playing the skeptic. He is soft and childlike, and I am rough around the edges and struggle to find the innocence I so deeply desire to be mine.

Our stories are different.

In Residence Life every year, each staff member is required to tell their story. This does not mean a dry, chronological account of the events of their life. It is meant to be a time of exploring the pieces of the past that have been formative (or deformative) to the person they are in the present.

But more than just an exploration of the past, it is an opportunity to take off the mask of surface level details and anecdotes from various points of life. It is a chance to let other staff members see the soul of the other. There is a drawing in to the sacred places that only invited eyes can see.

So while the dear friend before me has an entirely different story than I, the unraveling of his soul in the black and white photos, the smile that plays across his face when describing his mom, the particular scratchy sound his fingertips make across his guitar strings leaves me in tears. I can feel the gold and beauty filling the room and manifesting in the looks of knowing focused on the storyteller on the floor.

There may not be a single detail of his life that I can resonate with. We most certainly do not have shared memories. But somehow in that space of one person laying open the realness of where they have hurt, where they have healed, where there is hope, where there are spaces yet to be redeemed, boundaries between souls are lifted and they are able to rush together in celebration of one who God has especially crafted.

In telling one’s story there is risk. Not all ears will be ready to hear. Not all hearts will be warmly waiting to be invited to come to the surface. Not all mouths will affirm what is good and full of life.

But in taking that risk, dissimilar souls are allowed to dance together.

Let all stories be free to flow one with another.