I met Nastassia in the summer of 2005 when she came to stay with my family for 3 months. She is French-Austrian and is perhaps the biggest world traveler that I know. Nastassia now lives Sydney, Australia where she attends Hillsong International Leadership College studying Pastoral Leadership. As you read, imagine a french-german accent with occasional words that sound southern (thanks to her time in the states) and even more words with an Auzzie ring. There's no one like her! In just a few lines, I could not adequately tell you the impact she has had on my life. Instead, I will simply say that she is one of the most beautiful, gifted women I know and that I am honored to have her share her heart on this blog.
Embracing Our Stories, by Nastassia Benichou
Good entertaining stories - aren’t we all a big fan of them?
Let’s think of movies for example. Within a certain time frame we can watch a whole story unfold. There is a beginning and an end. We become acquainted with characters and want to know how their journey develops. Movies often make us feel very good because we are able to escape into another world.
We are distracted and fascinated by a bunch of scenarios and everything in us hopes that they will end well.
I have been thinking a lot about the power of stories and how they affect us human beings. But most important of all, I have been challenged by the thought of my own story.
Does it matter? Does it make any difference? Is it even worth telling?
Looking at life as a big unfolding story can be scary, especially if you reflect over your own little path. You realize how major the role you play can be. To be honest I don’t always like this thought because it puts you on the spot. There is a certain expectation that comes with a major role in a storyline. Your actions create consequences. People are watching you and they can start criticizing or praising you. Suddenly an audience becomes alive and you can fall into the trap of living for their applause. That’s a lot of pressure and I don’t like pressure. So why even take a risk and embark onto this journey of having my own story?
There are millions of voices in my head trying to convince me to just sit back, relax and watch the movies of the stories of others people’s lives. They have it more together than I do anyways.
So I’m at the movies. I like it there. It's safe. Ready with my popcorn and M&M’s. Sitting and relaxed: let the trailers begin! I love my snacks and am enjoying the process of deciding the next movie I might be watching. Except that this time the movie doesn’t start. I see this old familiar verse appearing on the screen:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Suddenly there is another voice popping out of nowhere. A little whisper to be more prescise! But this voice is different than the other ones. More exciting. More inviting. Challenging me to make a move. So I am faced with a decision to make.
Will I stay and wait around while watching the movie of someone else’s story? Or will I dare to stand up and start to see life more than my very own plan? Start to believe that my story matters and does make a difference?
Certainly I could do this, but I would have to acknowledge that this story might not be as predictable as I thought it could be. When the answer doesn’t come, trusting God or anything I can’t see might become harder than I thought it would be. This story often won’t offer me a map with a timeline. I might have to wait a lot and just simply follow. Not easy...
I would have to acknowledge that my story has nothing to do with superstars or high achievers like I see it on the screens. Would people even want to hear of it? This would be the story of a simple and ordinary girl whose life hasn’t always been easy and beautiful. A lot of tears, falling and standing up along her journey. A lot of running away. A lot of brokenness and confusion. Who in the world would want to be part of such an imperfect story?
Suddenly there is a twist in my thinking. I begin to realize that I’ve been trying to live a much smaller story: the one about me.
What happened to the story of purpose, sacrifice and character? A narrow road- indeed!
Hesitating I look to my right and to my left. I am not alone and should I chose to make a move people will notice. It’s impossible not too. I mean who walks out of a movie before it hasn’t even started? But I don’t want to lose myself in an unreal world and just be a spectator. I’m not that kind of girl. Never have been, never will be. No eye has seen, No ear has heard... So why do I hesitate and let all the 'what if's' haunt me?
So slowly I stand up. Desperate I hold on to my beloved popcorn and M&M’s, because it’s the only thing that gives me security right now. And I choose to embrace a story that is greater than the one I would write for myself.
Not knowing how the ending might look, I remind myself that sometimes the happiest ending isn't the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.
Sometimes it requires you to step out in the dark…
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up the experience that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Dr. Brene Brown, Author of The gift of imperfection
When we tell our story about how we have been transformed, we are telling the story of who God is. Preaching is important certainly but it can’t be the only way we allow God’s story to be told in our midst. The big story is actually been told by our little stories. By sharing our lives not just our sermons we are telling God’s story as it has never been told…