One of the things I fear more than life itself is the thought of letting people down. It’s one of those relics that has stayed with me from a time when I had very little control over my life. Growing up, I lived in an environment that was built on a lot of pain; physically and emotionally; and so one of the ways I learned to cope was by presenting a picture of emotional wellness that was actually really really far from reality. Just the possibility of being seen in someones eyes as less of a person was super difficult and so whenever I found myself in a conversation with someone, I always imagined this other Joel standing there smiling, with a sort of glassy tension behind his eyes and a restrained painful laugh that was reactive, but incredibly hollow.
I’ve literally spent most of my life always mentally cutting and editing my conversations before they went LIVE. I was always very noticeably thinking of the next step, always straining to keep this virtual reality version of myself public so the real me can be safe and hidden from everyone. I didn’t want to be found out to be this broken insecure guy.
Over the last few months I have been so privileged to sit and eat with so many friends, listening to their stories. It’s been amazing because I’ve also realised that I am not as alone as I thought. This planet is full of people who themselves have this constantly unfolding narrative that is intensely personal, rich and powerful, but like me a lot of folks simply see these stories as dirty, shameful and beyond understanding; and so those narratives remain untold.
For example, my friend Michael. For years he silently felt that the only option in this life was to live disconnected from his family and friends. He believed with all his heart that his story did not matter. One day Michael realised that his narrative, his life, was simply too much. He was literally on the edge of making a decision that was so absolutely final that in the blink of an eye he was in danger of disappearing forever. He believed that the world would’ve been happier for it. I will share with you what I shared with Michael.
Remember last week in Jesus, Pizza and Community we talked about how Jesus in Luke had this process he used a lot with the people he met. In chapter 10 he sent out his apostles or messengers telling them,
“When you enter a town and are received, eat what is set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’
I mentioned that Step one was, Eat with people — eat their food; listen to their story. Today step two is simply this; As you eat; Heal, which is all about your story.
The truth is, your story is so important. These stories teaches us important lessons about being caring, about love, patience, hope for you, hope for our neighbours, hope for all mankind. Not only are the fairytale ending stories important; but so are the stories of the good, the bad; Stories of injustice and of justice. That divorce you went through is important. The abuse you and I suffered, the challenges you are going through right now; are important stories. They are all important because you’re important to God.
So step one: Eat-eat their food, listen to their story
Step two: as you eat heal-share your story
and finally as you heal say: The kingdom of God is at your doorstep which is all about God’s story. We will talk about that more next week.
Oh by the way! Michael is doing fine. See you next week…..
You can also see the video for this blog here. Jesus, secrets and lies