I listened to a good, thought-provoking sermon at church this morning, one that echoed a theme that has been swirling inside me for a few months. I’m really not great at transferring my recollection into cohesive sentences when explaining what I have learned or taken away from something like this sermon, so I’m not even really going to try. Instead, I want to pick at the threads that were twisted from my own thoughts and perspective.
During the pre-sermon worship we sung a hymn that I quite enjoy, Come Thou Fount. Before we began the song, the worship leader explained the first lines of the second verse, which just so happens to be lines that I know well.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come”
The word Ebenezer first made an impact on me at least fifteen years ago, and I’ve been savouring it ever since. This summer I got a tattoo which included that very word taken from 1 Samuel 7:12, “Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, ‘Up to this point the LORD has helped us!'” My reasons for including this in my tattoo are many, but all of those reasons can be stirred together and boiled down into the fact that Ebenezer was a memorial stone. It is a visual reminder of the significance of my story.
Then the sermon itself was about stories and the impact that they can have on our lives, about the importance of knowing who we are and where we are in God’s story. The message resonated within me on several levels, because I have come to believe, even if reluctantly, that I do have a story of my own and that story has most definitely shaped my life and continues to shape me.
The text for the sermon came from the first several verses of 1 Corinthians 15, but I skimmed ahead a bit and came across this statement in the first part of verse 10:
“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me-and not without results.”
I have been blogging for a very long time, much longer than the life of this current blog. While I started blogging for myself with no thought that others might be interested in reading what I had written, I have seen a change over the past couple of years. The numbers might not be abundant, but there are people who actually take the time to read my blog and that boggles my mind. Why would more than 1700 people follow my blog? Why does anyone actually read it? I can’t claim to have any amazing writing skills. I write because I enjoy it and it is how I best express myself, not because I’m any good at it. I don’t understand it, and I’ve run the gamut of emotions about it. Confusion. Disbelief. Ashamed of my writing mistakes. Embarrassed by the weakness of my content. Fear of disappointing, not living up to someone’s expectations. Unworthy of anyone believing I had a story to tell. I blogged for myself, an online journal of sorts, and I never considered that I had a real story worth sharing.
As I have experienced amazing changes in my life over the past few years, there have been people who have made comments about me being inspiring or having a story worth sharing, and I have spent a lot of time squirming beneath the weight of those comments. What is so amazing about me that others feel encouraged or inspired or emotionally moved? Despite my feeling of unworthiness, I am slowly beginning to accept that I do have a story worth telling, and it isn’t up to me to assign value to my story. Who am I to decide what impacts another person?
A great part of my story revolves around a gym, training and powerlifting, but the changes within me go well beyond my physical appearance, physical fitness or the number of powerlifting records bearing my name. It might all seem quite ordinary to me when I compare it to the stories I see in other people, but there is a danger in believing that one story is better than another for the mere fact that they are different. I love to read and I have a handful of favourite authors; however, I would miss out on a great deal of knowledge, insight, inspiration, encouragement, and entertainment if I stuck to only those authors. Sometimes a book that doesn’t have great cover appeal turns out to be the most delicious read, and I believe that people are the same if we take the time to listen to their stories. Okay, so I need to remind myself often that this also applies to myself!
To quote the eleventh Doctor from Doctor Who:
“We are all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”