My father could hear a little animal step,
Or a moth in the dark against the screen,
And every far sound called the listening out
Into places where the rest of us had never been.
~~William Stafford, Listening
Not too long ago I went for a walk with a friend. We walked about three miles as the crow flies, but much further inside his story tracing back years and hundreds of miles. He dared to trust me with the ink-black darkness of sin and the pastel dawn of restoration.
I remembered thinking, “This is his pearl of great price, be very careful with it.” I held his story in my large hands–as if fragile. He felt safe enough to let me carry it for a while as we walked down a dirt road. Carrying another person’s story is one of the most sacred things I have ever done and ever hope to do.
Inside their story is the essence of who they are, what they’ve done and what they aspire to become. Embedded in their story are the colors and contours of a life God is eroding, wind-carving, storming, and growing into a landscape in which He would walk in the cool of the day.
I was a witness to the artistry of a Creator-God at work in the story of my brother. Together he and God were finger-painting a messy and yet breath-taking landscape of redemption.
A doe scampered across the gravel road, golden aspen leaves gently clattered like organic wind-chimes in the mountain air—on and on came his words of pain, loss, and heartache. There was a dryness to the mountain air in sharp contrast to the tears tracking down the soul of my friend.
He spoke of an emotionally distant father, the suicide of a close friend, loneliness that comes from caring for people, angst about what is truly important in life, insecurity about his own value and worth, a job that went bad, pain…pain…pain…. And then temptation. And then sin.
With such tenderness these words came from my friend. It was beautiful to hear his story. Lyrical. His pain made the telling even more elegant, like listening to an oboe high above the symphony as it lingers before flowing to a crescendo. It doesn’t seem to fit and yet you can’t imagine the piece without it.
We stopped and sat on a bench.
He asked me to tell my story. Thus we shared something much deeper. We shared our souls. And in the sharing of that deeper part of our lives, we experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit on that bench and we were safe, warm and loved.
I ask myself why I love hearing stories from my brothers and sisters and it occurred to me that when I am invited into the story of my brother, it is like looking into a reflecting pool. I see three wavy images–one is the emaciated skeletal mess I have made of my own life and one is the shining splendor of the creature I am becoming by the grace of Christ. And as I peer through the gossamer veil of the Holy Spirit, I see a third—the backside of God.
The ancient church fathers said that nature is the second book of God. Should I be so bold to say that there might be a third?
Tell me your story.