You Tell Me Your Stories...I'll Tell You Mine
The truth is I am not much of a football fan. However, my husband is. He has spent years trying to convert me. While I have done my research to make sense of the game, and even participated in a fantasy football league at one point, I still have to confess, unless it is a close game, football doesn’t hold my attention.
But…I love the Super Bowl, not the game itself, not even for the commercials, but rather for the stories. The stories are what hold my attention. I find the backstories of all the people who make the game possible intriguing. This year’s NFL pregame programming featured stories of the groundskeeper (George, age 92) who has worked the last 52 Super Bowls and took great pride in getting the fields ready for the big game; stories of the players' relationships with their moms and their families and their sacrifices and support; stories of the coaches and their coaching styles; and stories of many essential workers whose courage and resilience during this pandemic are especially noteworthy.
Moved by these incredible backstories, at one point I looked at my husband and said, "Why can't they just do this the whole time?" The look on his face told me I was missing the point of the main event, the game itself.
But honestly, why CAN'T we hear these feel-good stories more often? Why CAN'T we hear and listen to each other's stories more often? Not only does it give us all good feelings, but also it reminds us there
is such beauty and transformation when we "see" each other in new ways.
One of the most painful realities of this moment in time which we find ourselves in as a global community, as a world, and as the Church are divisions and divides among us. All of us at one time or another, or too many times to count, have quickly divided the world around us into two succinct categories US and THEM.
We have created stereotypes, labels, categories, descriptions, and assumptions which allow us to quickly arrange people into monolithic segments.
This type of compartmentalizing is a dangerously flat world approach to humanity, and I believe it is the ANTITHESIS of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe what Jesus modeled and what we are called to practice is a love rooted in wonder about our neighbors. When Jesus posed the rhetorical question of “Who is your neighbor?” I believe he wanted us to see clearly that there are no strangers in our world - only people we have not yet met.
As Valarie Kaur writes in her book, See No Stranger, a “radical vision of Christianity” would be to say (and live out) to all people, “You are not a stranger to me. You are only a part of me I do not yet know.” Imagine if this was our response to all people? WHAT IF…we believed this and practiced this kind of radical vision and love? WHAT IF…we took it a step further to an active engagement? A living out of the bold, transformative, engaging love which says, “I want to know you, please share your story with me and I will entrust my story with you as well.”
I think we need to realize seeing each person as our neighbor and no strangers among us is a radical act of Christ like love. How do we do this? By wondering. Wondering about ourselves and wondering about others.
For example, when we are tempted to compartmentalize people into stereotypes, labels, categories and quick descriptions, assuming those we are judging are one dimensional…
WHAT IF instead we WONDERED about the things we do not yet know. Like wondering how others experience them or wondering about their life story up to this point.
WHAT IF…we did not assume, we knew the other, but instead put aside what we think we know and understand about others and invite then to share their stories.
WHAT IF…when others shared their stories with us, in turn we listened deeply, being willing to be transformed in the process by letting go of the stories which no longer serve us and inviting others to do the same.
Stories can serve to divide the world into us and them. BUT…stories also have the power to expand our collective experience and vision, unifying us. A radical vision of Christianity practices a belief that we are ALL a collective part of God’s story of love. Why can't WE just do this the entire time?
This was my wondering as my husband shouted at the tv, and shared players’ stats with me during the Super Bowl.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister