Hey, “What’s your story?” Has anyone ever asked you that? It’s a question that can often catch us off guard and maybe even put us on the spot for a minute. You might answer, “Well, what do you want to hear? My resume?” Or perhaps you think to yourself, “I don’t really have a story. Nothing I’ve ever done is very interesting, or important enough to share.” If you find yourself in either of these camps, I want to tell you right now that you have a story, and it’s not just regurgitating your list of past accomplishments. But even better than just knowing you have a story, being willing to share it is where the power comes in.
A big chapter in my life story thus far, has been my cancer journey. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through that physical and emotional rollercoaster has been one of the biggest trials I have ever faced. However, looking back on it now, I see how God used that time to teach me so much, and grow me as a person. He also encouraged me to share my story and to let people into that part of my life.
When I began pulling the curtain back on my struggles and started allowing my story to speak to others who were also experiencing similar trials, I watched as God took what was a huge bump in my road and turned it into a blessing.
Reflecting on that season from the day my nightmare began until now, I have seen four specific stages of this storytelling process that I want to take you through. I believe that you have a story that someone needs to hear, and my hope is that you will begin to realize what it is you have to offer.
The first stage is PAIN. One of my favorite verses is John 16:33. In the middle of that verse it says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We all experience pain in our lives. It may be a cancer diagnosis, divorce, addiction, abuse, depression, or anxiety. Having painful moments or seasons is just the unfortunate reality of our world. Is there a pain point that you went through that is coming to your mind right now? Maybe you’re going through it at the moment, and that’s okay! Acknowledge whatever that struggle is, or was, and hold onto that for a minute.
The next stage that I feel is very important after you’ve identified your pain point is called PROCESS. When I look back at my cancer journey, there was a period of time when I needed to do some major emotional processing of the trauma I had just gone through. This took time. When I allowed myself to reflect on all that had happened, I began to realize everything I learned from that experience now that I wasn’t knee deep in the trenches.
The third stage is what I like to call PROJECTION. When I hear that word, I get a picture in my mind of an old-fashioned movie projector. I have memories of being a kid and having movie nights in our basement. After the sheet was taped up on the wall my mom would break out the old projector and home movies. I remember the big reels of film stored in metal cases stacked on the counter ready to be played. Unless the case was labeled, we didn’t know what was on the reel until we clicked it onto the machine and turned the projector on. Once we did, the story was suddenly bright and animated on the screen for all to see.
I think the projection stage of telling our stories is probably the most exciting, but also the scariest. It’s scary because what it requires is vulnerability. It’s very easy to wrap our painful moments in pretty boxes, and bury them deep somewhere where no one will find them.
Letting someone into your life, even a little bit, and sharing your hurt can be terrifying. I totally get that! I remember finishing the first draft of my book, in which I shared some very personal moments about my cancer journey, and getting to that point of sending it to my editor. I think I hovered my finger over the “send” button on my computer for five minutes! I wasn’t sure I was ready for someone else, let alone the whole world, to have access to my heart in that way.
But I believe true power comes when we are vulnerable and authentic, and we don’t hide behind perfect Instagram filters all the time. I had to get over the worry about what people might think, and tell myself that this was not my story. It was God’s story. If they didn’t like it, they could take it up with Him.
When I released that pressure off of myself it freed me to let those insecurities go. I knew I had done my part. My new mantra became:
Here it is…praise the Lord, Period.
I had to put it out there, and then just let it go.
If you’re feeling led to share your story, don’t worry about what people think of you. Remember that no one can refute your story. Your story is uniquely yours, and you’re the one who experienced it. No one has any say over that, so don’t give them that power.
Now, remember. Being vulnerable and sharing personal moments is good, but there is a time and a place to share, or not to share. That is up to you to discern for yourselves. Make sure you have peace about what you are wanting to offer.
The last stage, and I think the best stage of this process of sharing your story is called PURPOSE. We may never understand why we had to experience the pain that we did, but I believe that telling your story will create purpose for that pain. When I was going through my fight with cancer, I felt completely and utterly out of control of my life. In some ways that was good, because I grew a lot through learning to rely on God and not my own strength.
In the end, I made the decision that cancer would not have control over me, or define my life. I wanted to write the final chapter in my story and take what I had been through and use it to help others.
This gave me PURPOSE.
So many people are struggling and are thinking, “No one could possibly understand what I’m going through.” But YOU may be the one person who can tell them that you can relate and understand.
If you are willing to be vulnerable with your pain that you have processed, and project that for someone else, you will find purpose that will bless you beyond anything you can imagine.
You don’t have to write a book to tell your story. It can be sharing it over coffee with a friend. Or maybe it’s reaching out to someone you see who is going through a hard time and simply telling them they’re not alone. Telling our stories, and coming alongside each other can be so healing not only for the person you’re sharing with, but for you as well.
That’s what I call, PURPOSE.
If you don’t think anyone would want to hear your story, or maybe you need a little push to get that story out, I want you to know….