Brave,  good questions,  relationships

let your story out to preach

What is the blow that has knocked your life off course?

If you were asked that by a well-meaning person  – someone you would likely grow to trust by all the regular signals you use to determine that – which story would you tell?  C’mon, we all have a bunch.  Some are obvious or easily accessible, and others are strictly invitation only.

Wanna know the story I most often leave out when I’m in a new small group or I’m getting to know new people?  Whatever the one is that I’m living through right now.

The Embers

A little over a year ago I was invited to join a group of women.  She called us The Embers for reasons that would unfold.  I only knew one of them at the time, the one inviting me.

My friend veiled her idea to gather us, and I love her so I latched on.  She promised that no force would be applied – you know you know what I mean.  If any of us decided This Is Not My Deal But Thanks, that would be totally cool.  That was approximately 847 texts between us ago, so I can’t recall exactly how it went down.  I do know I was gun-shy, being fresh off a series of “setbacks”, but I must have said OK, and probably punctuated my answer with my favorite emoji, the eyeroll.

Translation: YIKES.

On the first night, after coffee and some outrageous cake, we did introductions and shuffled nervously, still wondering what we’d said yes to, and then my friend confided that there was something we all had in common.  We’d all been impacted by a life changing rejection or some debilitating loss.

I remember I stiffened.  If being a loser was the qualifying factor for inclusion, it was a label I hated.

Hard questions and showing up

We stacked our plates in the sink and played clean up, which is never easy in someone else’s kitchen, all the while knowing that storytime was coming next.

What was the loss or pain that shifted my life from drive to park?

I picked an old one.  I went safe.  Mom, always Mom.  It’s still true, and it’s my go-to story in situations where people say their things.  The chicken soup, the seizures, the ambulance, the inexplicably callous Dr. A-hole.  The metastatic breast cancer, the life slipping through my fingers, and the ring I still wear.  This story has a 17 year epilogue that’s remarkably personal, so I kept it cloistered for another night.  Whether that night would ever come was still in question.

I picked that story, one I have practice telling, because I am all kinds of broken.  On any given day, even with loving believers, I don’t air what I have not worked out.

If I don’t have a story polished, I don’t let it out to preach.

Or, I didn’t.  Since The Embers, some things have changed.

After a while with them fresher stories came.  Time and trust and cake and prayer will do that to a soul – scrape the dead skin away so the tender flesh can breathe.

It’s so hard to present our suffering in-real-time when we don’t have a stellar ending yet for the story we are living.  So many gangly awkward loose ends!  We think we ought to be able to swiftly tie those suckers up, but it’s just not Pinterest-simple.  Not when it’s your life.

Gimme a sec.

But why?

One time I was listening to a pastor preach on suffering from one of my favorite scriptures , 2 Corinthians 1:5-7 *, and inside I was cheering him on.  Cheering and praying.  Please let him tell a real story, I pleaded,   because people want real more than we want good.  But in place of real, we got a dusty tale from his college days and an unfortunate sports injury.  I hate when that happens.  I could not have been the only one silently begging for a faith transfusion, a story of fresh hope –  the kind that’s just stitched and still swollen.

The magical thing about a painful story that feels too fresh to share is that right now it still has the energy, the gravity, the impact I need like a tourniquet for my leaky hope.  Our stories have that kind of power.

Making space for my still raw stories to play and have a life –beyond me arranging for you what I think you should think of me – is a risk every single time, but, these days I’m taking it.  When I hold back, I rob you of comfort by protecting too long and pretending too well.  If I am the only one feasting on what God is pouring into me because of a sorrow, I’m starving the body.

So, every other Thursday I meet with my girls.   We co-shoulder our baggage and drip our fat tears.  I love them with my messy self.  It’s been over a year since that first night, and it’s only a little easier now.  But this is my slow truth and the truth always helps.  Don’t let your stories go stale.  Talking out the things God is doing while he is doing them and before he is done shows us all what miracles look like in the goo and gunk of the making and shaping.

Didn’t we learn this in third grade?  Always show your work.  Your life is telling a great story of how God grabbed a person and filled her with himself.  Let it out to preach.


Pictures for this post were taken by Rowdy Smith.  Thanks, Rowdy!

*Capsules of Comfort is another post I wrote about this scripture, because it won’t let go of me.  Blessings.


  • Carissa

    This is a lovely post, Lynne. Thank you for sharing. I’m not comparing but it made me think of the book Bread & Wine. I haven’t experienced things that Shauna writes about (haven’t had kids) but I really enjoyed the book. Sounds like a wonderful group you have!

    • Lynne

      You know groups! Nothing is ever without the kneading of the dough. I love them, though, and as usual, I wasn’t looking. The best things happen that way!

  • Marilyn

    Enjoyed this immensely! It’s great you’ve been given a circle of people. I try to share as close to real time as possible, but with only a small circle at first. I need to be careful about sharing too broadly before I build up the ability to receive the possible responses. Loved this, though. You’re right, the still-raw stories whose endings we don’t know have a power in them. And the timing is never an accident. Someone there needs your honest story, even if they don’t tell you. We may not know until much later. Someone came back to me a full YEAR later to tell me she was going through the same thing but couldn’t speak it. Oh, such isolation!

    • Lynne

      Wow, that is so amazing. And you know, getting stuff out regardless of the reception or ministry factor changes ME. I really feel like there are somethings God will do only in the body of Christ – but being an introvert, I tend to try to be a one-woman-show. Too much!
      Thanks for commenting, Marilyn 🙂

  • Cathy

    My best moments in small group happen when I’m vulnerable. Then miraculously I’m not alone and HE is more visible…and if I “snot cry” no one cares. Love this Lynn. You bless me.

  • Deb Richard

    I find as I get older I become more guarded and closed up. I don’t want to “burden” anyone with my pain and hurt that can sometimes be all consuming. This is a good reminder that it’s o.k. to be honest about my brokenness and maybe it’s time to let some of the walls down a bit. Love reading your posts Lynn!

    • Lynne

      It’s time. But you know when you’re ready. I notice that it starts with accepting that I don’t control what other people think of my stuff. They get to think what they want. I make my peace with God and release what he’s going to let happen through my story…on a good day!
      Thanks, Deb?

  • Brittany

    Beautiful…! Sometimes God wants us to stop turning our heads and minds away from awkward moments and wonder what that seemingly meaningless or empty or weird moment was for! <3 thanks for being brave in your writing, as always!

  • annkroeker

    I just got The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life from the library, and Marin Roach Smith’s call for honest life stories and storytelling aligns well with your own story about storytelling here. The pastor pulling out a dusty story from college sounds so typical, not only of pastors I know but also of myself. Its easy to tell the old ones where we know how we’ll feel and have a good idea how others will react.

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