The Power of a Story

On March 30th Cesie Delve Sheuermann, a great sister in Christ, an amazing writer (one blogger who is always worth reading), posted a blog post on re-imaging your story.  You can read it here.

Cesie based her idea of re-imagining a story on the new, sensational broadway musical, “Hamilton,” a hiphop, musical retelling of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, which has grossed $63 million in ticket sales since it opened in August.  See the opening number from Hamilton here.  The soundtrack won the Grammy in February for best musical theater.  When I watched the opening number, it riveted me.

What was it about the style, the music, the incredible choreography, or the story behind this phenomenon that caught me?  I didn’t know, but, I bought the soundtrack.  I’ve listened through it possibly 25 times since April 1st, and like Cesie had written in her blog, I too am captivated by it.  I’ve laughed. I’ve cried, yes even sobbed listening to it.  (Ridiculous, right?) And alongside of the power of the story, I’m learning a slice of American history I hadn’t known much about.

Ask my family, I get caught by stories.  When there is healing, love, or redemption in a story on film or in a book, the kids and Karen have looked at me, for I’ll cry.  I remember reading the last chapter of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle aloud to the girls years back and getting so choked up I couldn’t read the end for a while as Charles Wallace and Meg get reconnected with their family back on earth. 🙂 When in London in 1998 I took Anna and Grace to see Les Miserables on stage, and of course, cried.  We’ve loved that musical over the years as a family, and still I’ll sob through parts of it, as if I don’t know what’s coming!

God wired me sensitive, true, but with this play Hamilton, God is speaking to me about the reason behind the wiring.  Stories matter.  How we tell our own stories to ourselves, especially, matters.  In life so often the greatest difficulties encountered by people happen when they narrate to themselves a false interpretation of some event in life, and thereby making that event a kind of marker with the power to poison their future story.  Re-interpretation happens often through forgiveness and in this musical Hamilton there is this incredibly beautiful forgiveness that takes place.

One reason, perhaps, why God wired me sensitive to stories was so I can listen for the  ways people have misinterpreted their own stories and then I can be present as Jesus helps them reframe and reclaim the hope He intends.

On Sunday a little girl up front for children’s moment demonstrated such a re-telling.  I had asked the kids to hold in their minds eye an image of a very special event in their lives, a favorite memory.  And then I asked them to see where Jesus was in that event, notice what he was doing, and ask if he would like to tell them anything.  Aurelia raised her hand.

“Jesus was with Nana, Papa and I as we were trying to find our way back to our tent in the dark,” she said.

At first, I was unclear how this was a favorite, but figured Jesus had brought up a memory he wanted to work with!

“Were you lost?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but Jesus was right there with us, showing us the way back.”

“Is He saying anything to you, Aurelia?”

She nodded. “He is saying, ‘I am always with you and will never leave or forsake you.'”

I looked up at the congregation, many of whom were choked up, and said, “That’s about the best sermon you’ll get today.  Thank you, Aurelia.  I think we can all go home now!”

Stories are powerful and the way we tell them matters both to us and to others.  As I am practicing for this Camino, I’m not just preparing to walk across northern Spain, but I’m practicing for my daily walk with Jesus.  I want to learn to walk in that story and to tell it well.

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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2 Responses to The Power of a Story

  1. Cesie says:

    You had me all choked up, Brian – beautiful. (And if I ever get to see “Hamilton” in person – I think I will be sobbing through “It’s Quiet Uptown.”)

    Liked by 1 person

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