I’m raising two toddlers. We are in the first year of our church plant, and you’re asking me to take time to look at my story! Are you serious?!

SO WHY THE AUDACITY to sug­gest looking at your past? How could this be an ideal time to do it? Perhaps the intensity of life is bringing out a side of you that is a bit unfamiliar—nagging thoughts about faith that surface in the middle of the night, or attitudes towards people in your church that surprise you. Does conflict draw others deeper into relationship with you or encourage them to keep a safe distance? Or do people find you so nice that you don’t have any conflicts at all? Do you feel compelled to take on ministries just because there is no one else to do it?

Could your story and how you view your world impact these situa­tions?

I think the answer is yes.

I am convinced that merely applying principles and biblical teaching to our issues without any regard for the story God has placed us in is inadequate.

Out of our unique stories emerge our styles of relating, our philosophies about boundaries, and our posture toward pain. These are just a few of the factors that deeply affect our relation­ships, and thus our churches.

So often we attempt to deal with life—and our hearts—by just doing what we think needs to be done or should be done. But we never look at how or why we think the way we do about our relationships and what they require. Yes, we all know that trying to measure up to the inordinate standards we hold for ourselves, or that others hold for us, is a living death. We know this living death is never espoused in scripture, and we cer­tainly don’t want to engender it in our churches. Yet how often do we live this way?

Free grace pen­etrates our hearts only to the depth that we allow it to simultaneously penetrate our past histories, pains, and wounding. Al­lowing ourselves to see and experience the negative aspect of our lives along with the positive keeps us from avoid­ing, denying, and compartmentalizing the truth. By seeing our lives as they really are (or were) we see that the God of the universe has invited us to know the real him in the reality of our lives.

Sadly, when we deny the truth of our own lives, we ask other people to do the same with theirs. When we truly experience a God who can handle the ugliness and brokenness of our lives, our anger, and our shame, as well as our delight, our glory, and our hope, then we can invite others to know this same God.

The more we know our own stories and develop self-awareness and healthy critical thinking, the more we have the capacity to know God and his story. When we truly see our pasts, then we can begin to understand how we have sought to bring peace into our lives apart from relying on Christ. We begin to see where we have created idols to give us false hope and comfort. We begin to see how we relate to others apart from relying on Christ.

The more we let the Holy Spirit open the doors to our past, the more freedom we encounter.

This freedom draws others to the life-giving hope we possess in Christ.

So, more than helpful tips on ministry, we need this God to invade our stories and our lives—past, present, and future. As we do this, we discover we are uniquely created for this life to which he has called us. We do possess the gifts, the abilities, and the power of the Spirit that enable us to thrive. We begin to see that ministry is not something we do, but something we are. The power of comparison and envy begin to lose their grip. We begin to believe that our unique story, which formed us, is much needed in our family, in our church, and in our community.

Do you know your own story?

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy of your righteousness.

—Psalm 145:4-7 (NLT)

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

—Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality