When I walked into the great hall one evening this week, about a thousand chairs were arranged in circles of six, set up for small-group conversations. For this one session, it was not the usual set-up for a United Methodist Annual Conference of local-church pastors and leaders.
“Be a steward of your story,” the speaker told us, as she encouraged us to get to know one another in a deeper way. “Only you can tell your story. Be honest, vulnerable, and authentic.” She went on to remind us that our story is not our resume. Often we are not the hero of our story: usually God is.
Over the years as a stewardship professional, I have thought of our being stewards of many dimensions of our lives – our relationships, our possessions, our spiritual gifts, even of the gospel – but I had never reflected on how we are stewards of our life stories. Meaningful personal stories are not meant to be planned, canned speeches for self-serving purposes, but instead glimpses into God’s life with us, perhaps a life lesson we learned or a turning point along the way. And those three guidelines – to be honest, vulnerable, and authentic – help us “keep it real” with one another.
It’s amazing what God can do when we value our own experiences that way and listen intently to the stories of others. Even at Annual Conference and other official church gatherings, we can look into a person’s eyes and receive his or her gift of sorrow or joy. In that process, we make room for the Holy Spirit to work between us, creating anew in surprising places and ways.
Your partner in faith,