Why Knowing Our Stories is so Important

by Abby Alleman on December 26, 2014

When I first read this post from Abigail Alleman, I knew it had to be published around Christmas. For it is a story about entering into stories, about becoming more a part of the places we live, entering the world God has called us to, fully with all our broken pieces. It is a story about Incarnation – and that’s what we celebrate in December. That our God came and entered our story. –Marilyn

Entering our Story

 

It is the Fall of last year. I walk the hill, the cross barely visible atop the modernesque Catholic church. The shadows fall long. I am mind-wringing endless; anxious. The once brilliant of reds, oranges and yellows, an array of reflected sunset, line the ground, edges ripped, misshapen, eaten-up by decay and trampling.

There’s a weight pressing hard to chest and I struggle for the hope. I fear spinning into crazy and destroying dreams so long in the making. How have I come here, to this dark place? And more, has God forgotten me?

I wander this dark wilderness and cannot feel His presence.

Have you been there, too, friend?  The way out is hard to find. It is impossible without intimate fellowship with God and trusted friends who love, pray and walk us through.

And, I will add another essential, often forgotten, companion. Our story.

As we prepared to move overseas, I was sure I knew my story. I had come to peace with myself. God let my early life and ministry dreams shatter. The walls of resistance crumbled, and I was finally ready to stop running from the pain furrowing deepest. I moved home. I experienced healing in my relationship with my mother. I learned to receive the beauty and broken of her love and life in the surpassing-treasure of caring for her while she was dying. Hadn’t this mended the torn places of the past? Wasn’t I whole related to my story? Wasn’t that why a new dream, this calling overseas with my husband, was opening up before me?

The answer is ‘yes’. And the answer is ‘no’.

Our stories are alive. They are as layered and complex as the ways we are made and the times and places of our lives. As we live new things, learn new things, become new things, our stories deepen and grow. Naturally, then, when something as profound as a cross-cultural move becomes a part of our stories, they take on new shapes. They become integrated more fully with the story of the world. In particular, they are now woven into the story of our new home.

This is what I came to realize as I walked the hard places of last Fall. My new home is in a part of the world with a darkened past and its cavernous, cancerous-like wake. I live in a country mired in tragedy. A country which lost two-thirds of its ancestral lands. In its honorable pursuit to gain them back, Hungary finds itself in the deadly center of a tug of war between Hitler and Stalin. There is a courageous, but failed revolution in 1956. In some ways this can be considered the death of hope for the nation.These are gripping, broken pieces of this nation’s story and I, in the whole of who I am, am called to enter and engage it.

But how?

I know enough about my story to see I can not muster up, in myself, what is needed to fulfill the calling God has given me. I have experienced burnout in ministry as I set out with full-hearted, sincere zeal to save the world in the name of Christ. In the end it is a sowing of the wind and a reaping of the whirlwind.

I need something more. I have to go deeper to the roots of my own tragedies. And I must come to the place of crying out in naked want to the God who is the fulfillment of all my hope. And as I look at my story, I see how the narrative being written, the weaving of intricate threads that led to the desperation of last Fall, prepares me for the great gift to come.

It is something that only the most brilliant of Authors can write. I look at the fallouts; the grief that brings me to this point. The failure of my dream, and a subtle disillusionment, when I experience a strong call to ministry in my early 20s. The death of my mother and how I can’t talk with her and hear her words of re-assurance. The call to another part of the world of one of my dearest friends. The timing of the birth of our third child a mere six months after we moved.

All hard things. All removing every false layer of comfort, so I am ready for what only God can give. A hope that rises beyond every place that mars the path through this veil of tears. A resilience that can only come from the light that shines in the darkness and overcomes.

Nothing less will shape my life so it speaks the living truth of redemption. Here and now. For I cannot look into the face of this nation with its tragic story and offer real hope, unless I am willing to look fully into the face of my own story. It is only then I can believe God for the chapters He wants to write here, in the lives of these people. The strength of faith comes from having gone before, through the gut-wrenching, intimate pain of my own story and pushing through to the hope. I am kept close to His heart, as I learn to trust Him with my strange new utterly-out-of-my-control life. And the keeping wraps with a lens back towards all that has come before in my story. I see how He is ever-weaving all things for good and so promises to bring me Home in this same redeeming light.

In the end, we cannot give what we do not have. And the level of faith, hope and love that are required to fight for the story of a nation, as God wants to write it, must have shaped the contours of our own. To believe he is Immanuel, God with us. The One who not only meets us in all our brokenness but purposes to transform what is shattered into something good, beautiful and eternal.

This is why He has come. It is why He enters time and space and takes on all the tragedies of this world and so, too, of our lives. It is an amazing gift we have. This treading the earth with eyes open and heart attuned to his writing within and without. It is how our journey overseas becomes a part of something so much greater than us, yet nothing less than the knowing of our very own unique and precious story.

Do you know your story? Has anything happened in your overseas journey to make you think you need to take a closer look? What chapters are you fighting for, for yourself? for your host nation? (or former host nation?) Please, share something related to one of these questions in the comments below.

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/faith-bible-old-christmas-story-507810/

Further Reading :

To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future, Dan Allender

To Be Told: Workbook, Dan Allender

When a Woman Finds Her Voice, Jo Ann Fore

Abby is a farm girl who found her heart in the city. She can now humbly claim fluency in three languages but it’s the three little ones who call her mama that truly humble her. She and her husband have been ministering to students in Hungary through the ministry of CRU since 2005 and pray continually that their greatest joy would be found in the Gospel. She can be found blogging at www.abigailalleman.com

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About Abby Alleman

A farm girl at heart, Abigail (Abby) loves the surprising stories God writes. Since her first plane trip at the age of twenty landed her in Barcelona, Spain, Abby knew her life would never be the same. She holds degrees in both Math and Spanish and is a former high school teacher. She has served as a translator and short-term missionary in Latin America and inner city Philadelphia. But her most treasured journey is when her big dreams came crashing to the ground, when heartbreak and humility brought her home to her family, God and eventually right to her husband, Jared. They have worked with the student ministry of CRU for ten years in both the U.S. and Hungary. She has three small kids and blogs her life and love of story at Abigail Alleman ( www.abigailalleman.com ).
  • Thank you all for having me here, letting me share a bit of my story, again.

    It’s a great post for me to re-read and remember the hope I am fighting for in my life and the lives of those here. I am particularly fighting for a new day of deepening community through story here. Amongst the women I serve with and in the community. I also am dreaming and hoping to encourage and grow community in the area among women, to encourage them in their stories.

    I long for Home to be found less in a place and more in who we are. For the Story we share to shape our paths in its Redemptive Glory…
    Proverbs 4:18New Living Translation (NLT)

    18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
    which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

    In all of the ways of our various niche-callings, and the cultures of our homes, that too, God’s people would everywhere become more brilliant in the grand story He writes over time and our lives…as we find courage to embrace and live it.

    Thanks again…I hope someone else will share a bit of the ‘unwritten chapters’ they are hoping & fighting for…

  • “For I cannot look into the face of this nation with its tragic story and offer real hope, unless I am willing to look fully into the face of my own story. It is only then I can believe God for the chapters He wants to write here, in the lives of these people. The strength of faith comes from having gone before, through the gut-wrenching, intimate pain of my own story and pushing through to the hope.” This. This is so very, very true. It is out of the transformation in our own lives that we have hope for transformation of broken communities across the globe!

    Also, the book “When a Woman Finds Her Voice” sounds SO interesting. Definitely looking that one up!

  • One of the important things I’ve learned about my story thanks to the overseas adventure is that someone else does not have to be interested in my good for God to still work good out of the difficult, hurtful, impossible…

    It has much more to do with whether or not I’ll accept His sovereignty in those events/circumstances… or if I choose to fight Him.

  • brooke

    I think we often think we are only writing our own stories or those of the “church” but we are affecting a nation, village, community, family, etc… We have to be aware of the culture around us and how we affect these lives. If working for the Missionary affects someone status in their community is that good or bad? If the development projects that we teach change an ancient way of doing things, is it really better?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Brooke. I appreciate the questions
      you are asking…it seems we often lose the way when we stop asking
      questions of ourselves, the ones taking us deeper into our stories, and
      at the same time we lose the way to understanding the story of the people, and nation, around us. Most, we lose the heart of the Author and have a hard time finding our way back.
      Thanks again…

  • Guest

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Brooke. I appreciate the questions you are asking…it seems we often lose the way when we stop asking questions of ourselves, the ones taking us deeper into our stories, and at the same time we lose the story of the people, and nation, around us. Thanks again…

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