This is a repost from March 24, 2011, as I revisit the significance of story as I hike Half Dome today, with my dad, husband, and little brother. On this 12 hour plus hike, each step we take will be a story. And no matter whether we make it to the top or not, there, in the story, in the telling, is freedom. I pray, like the waterfalls we will hike near, the stories will pour out, that they gush and drench us in wonder. I pray they cannot be contained. . .
I grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other’s story–or, at least, there were stories to tell about everyone.
Farming town–lots of teachers, lots of farmers. My dad was a farmer of almonds. My grandfather was the town doctor. I was the oldest of five, two sisters after me, then two brothers. We lived outside of town, in first a yellow house with a screened in porch where a huge walnut tree grew in the front yard and we got to ride our big wheels down the road with the dogs to the creek. Then a mobile home planted in the middle of the orchard where my dad dug holes to place the tiny almond trees in the dark ground. The same creek was still a ten minute walk away. When I was young my mom stayed home to take care of us. Big outtings were driving into town to visit Grandma and Grandpa–or driving in to get the mail or go to the grocery store. We spent a lot of time outside running around. I wouldn’t change anything; it looked like there was a lot of freedom. And there was, not having neighbors around or fences or anywhere to go most of the time. But those stories–those were hard to tell.
I used to think it was something about it being a small town–most people living there had grown up there, gone to the same high school that their children now attend, knew the background about most families and how they came to the tiny town–that made it feel so difficult for me to feel free. But now I realize that while a place can shape a person, its personality digging into your skin and becoming the filter through which you perceive and think about everything else, the attitude of pride is what keeps the secrets locked inside. The true stories are not trusted to be told.
This is my story, my struggle with not sharing my heart. My parents were open about their feelings about their circumstances. When I was growing up, they were vulnerable in their being so open with me about the stories of their past, their journeys of their hearts. I think they trusted me, maybe, because I was the oldest. But my dad would tell me I was good at listening. He said he felt like when he talked I cared about what he said. I loved hearing him share–the stories were often about the challenges of growing up with parents who cared a great deal about what was appropriate and what wasn’t, stories of his dad and the crazy adventures he would go on, the strict pressure my grandmother felt growing up as the engineer’s daughter of the Panama Canal. And he loved sharing his mistakes, the things he regrets and wishes he could change. I felt so honored that he trusted me I didn’t want those conversations to end. But, underneath it all, what stays with me, is that the stories were always about how he never felt free.
For me, growing up tremendously shy so that it took until years after college that I began to feel comfortable with who I was, I felt trapped in my inability to communicate verbally with words. Writing things down was simpler, safer, and I did that a lot. I loved to write. But the sharing of my story, the true story of my heart–the aches and dreams and joys and regrets–was something I couldn’t do easily. That would require the risk that my story would not want to be heard, would not be valued, would not be accepted. I was more worried about what people thought of me than about being honest most of the time. Some stories, the truth, felt just too difficult to tell.
But silence is like poison. Stories of the heart, the truth, even if it feels like you are going to die in the telling of it, are meant to be shared. Because when you tell something that is that difficult to share with another, there is a death occurring. And that is good. I die to pride each time I am honest about my sins, candid about my heart. I am tired of trying to be someone else I am not. Through the assurance that God loves me, even if the world doesn’t, based on the darkness of the past choices I have made–I have to reach for the Light of truth. Darkness, keeping silent, has now become death to me. I don’t want to live there anymore.
We are always in the middle of our story, it unfolding before us in each choice we make. But our pasts, the stories before, have shaped each piece of us. And when someone asks me how I am and I say “fine” or “good” when I am not, it is poison to my heart. We each need to be known–not by everyone, maybe, but we were not made to be alone, to live so our lives are not shared. What is most crucial is that no matter where I live–be it a tiny farming town or a busy suburb sandwiched between San Francisco and San Jose, where I live now–I must be known. I must share my story.
There’s the things you see about me–where I live, what clothes I wear, what car I drive, where my kids go to school–and there is the story of my heart. I am in a place right now where I am not going to hold back anymore–whether my story in these posts is “acceptable” or not. There is too much life for me to live. I hope you come alongside me, respond with the truth He has placed in your heart, and let your story be heard.
It is the trusting of each other with our stories that brings me life. Your story, His truth, brings Life to each other.
What brings you freedom? What truth do you want to share?
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