Each Sunday morning I stand on the platform, given the extraordinary honor and responsibility of teaching God’s Word. I look at the people I am talking with, and I am overwhelmed.
The youngest (in the main service) is a small child. The oldest is in her 90s. Some are amazingly fit, while others struggle with basic physical function. The wealthiest lives in a financial world I cannot comprehend. The poorest lives in a dumpster. They spend each day doing so many different things that, together, they make a microcosm of the community. No ethnic group is in the majority, but every ethnic group is represented. There are geniuses and people who struggle to function on a day to day basis.
And every one of them has a story. A unique set of life experiences and interactions that make that person…a person. And these stories are amazing! Epic battles with cancer. Heroic acts. Amazing coincidences. Heart-rending circumstances that people live with. Inspiring responses to what life throws at them. They include things we would never have dreamed would be part of that person’s life, and yet there they are. Traumatic experiences, war, marriage, divorce, cancer, mental illness. And joys—marriage, children, career success, education. They have fears we don’t understand. They have a lot going on in their lives, but always there’s a story.
I have come to understand that the greatest blessing in ministry–or in life–is getting to hear these stories. Being trusted by others so that they will share these things that makes them who they are. And when that happens, I see them differently. I understand much more about the choices they make—even if the choices are wrong. I find myself being more patient, and more interested in those people. I want to be around them and get to know them and serve them.
We need to listen to those stories. Before we get angry at someone. Before we judge them. Before we believe we know what they are doing, what they think, what they want—we need to hear their story. When we do, they change. They become someone different—sometimes a lot more likable, and sometimes a lot less. But now they are real people. Because we know their story.
Everyone has a story. But how important is that story to us?