Laying Down My Stories

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I am a writer. Its natural for me to love stories. Nothing is more attractive to me than well-told and well-written stories. Its why I read so many books, why I follow so many blogs, and why I love deep conversations with friends. Nothing beats a good book like a heartfelt conversation with another human being. People are the stories they do and don't tell.
I was reading this month's issue of the Ensign the other day and came across a quote that made me think. Elder D. Todd Christofferson quotes a professor saying,
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, God's work in your life is bigger than the story you'd like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you'll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him."
It caught my eye because stories are what I'm all about. I love my story. I love sharing my hardships and my successes. I love sharing what I've learned just by being alive. Its why I talk so much. I write because I run out of people to talk to.
The idea of laying down my story causes something of a rebellion in me. No way, not in a million years of living, not in all eternity will I forget my story. I will not stop telling it. That is my story. That is me. I rant. I rave. I wave my favorite writing pencil all over the place and I promise to never forget.
After sitting with that feeling for a while, of refusing to give up and be quiet, I made some room for new ideas.
The quote never said to forget my story, or to never tell it. It said to give my life to God. I think that means a couple of things.
I think it means letting go of false beliefs. It means letting go of my long-held idea that I would make a really bad mom, and having the faith to have one, and then two kids. It means letting go of that "bad mom" belief every day so that eventually I can start to see that I am in fact a very good mom.
I think giving my life to God also means believing Christ when he says he can heal my wounds. I've held on to hurts and scars in my story for much longer than I needed to. Laying down my story in that case means letting His light into my dark places to shine on the stories that I don't tell. If I refuse to accept any other version of my story than my own, I close myself off to perspective, experience, and ultimately, healing.
Laying down stories for me also means letting go of the stories I've made up about pretty much everything. It relaxing the fears my anxiety stirs up at night when I finally cuddle up with my white fleece blanket in bed. Its being brave to push through the "what ifs" of every aspect of my life and have the faith to simply live. Living without fear is, for me, definitely laying down my stories and giving it to God.
I imagine laying down my story is like collecting the pieces of my life in a  gallon Ziploc bag, then having the courage to sit with God and pull out every piece. When I'm all done, when the tears are cried, the anger has surged, and the hurts acknowledged, I am ready to ask "What will you have me do now, Lord?". I imagine Him touching each piece, adding more to the empty spaces, and building a person more beautiful and divine than my mortal eyes can see, my mortal mind can comprehend, and my mortal heart accept.
But the work of laying down stories does not have to wait for those special moments in some far off day in eternity. Those moments can start now. Start in sharing the parts of your story you can. Listen to the stories of others. There is a softening that occurs when we open ourselves to others. It creates a wonderful vulnerability that is fertile ground for healing and growth. The patience and understanding will come naturally. Forgiveness will too.
We think God begins to work in our stories when we finally decide to let Him in. But I have discovered that it only requires open eyes and open hearts to see that He is already there, His presence the single constant thread intricately and lovingly woven through the experiences of our lives.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.