A friend I’ve gotten to know this last year wept beside me yesterday as she shared about her mom’s death and the dark times that followed the loss. We were sitting in our homeschool practicum training together—not exactly the space you’d expect vulnerable sharing to take place—and I ended up needing a tissue, too, just sitting beside her, touching her shoulder, listening to her words.
The thing is, I hadn’t known that piece of her story until yesterday, because even though we’ve shared classroom life together for the last year, even though I’ve been to her house and bought eggs from her and eaten weekly packed lunches across the table from one another, there was never really an opportunity to share our stories. There was always lots of chaos and kids and chatter and distraction and pretty much no vulnerability.
Girls, today is Fathers Day. I could write about how amazing your dad is or how amazing my two dads are or about God the Father, but instead I want to talk about our stories and why we need to do better at offering them, listening to them, and providing space to hear them.
This morning I saw the daughter of a friend weeping in church, and because I do know a piece of her story and the pain related to fatherhood in her testimony, my heart felt heavy for her. So heavy. I wanted to say, it’s okay, this is a heavy day, it’s a complicated day, go ahead and cry in church, you are welcome here. I wanted to say so many things.
Then I started looking around our sanctuary and my heart felt even heavier because even though I saw folks I see every single week, I realized how many people’s fatherhood stories I don’t know—mourning fathers, absent fathers, broken families—and how much pain there certainly was right alongside me in the pew. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure there was plenty of joy alongside me, too, but on Hallmark holidays, the silent stories are usually sad and complicated ones.)
Girls, I’ve been thinking about this idea of not knowing others well enough to really know their stories.
But if we don’t know people’s stories, we can’t be part of their story. We can’t rejoice with them. We can’t mourn with them. We can’t remember with them.
We can’t do life with them. Not really.
And we certainly can’t be the Kingdom of God to them.
One of the (unexpectedly) best things about being a writer is that when I share something personal in a public forum, I’m nearly always tracked down afterwards so folks can offer me a “me, too” story in response. Sometimes it’s a text or an email or a direct message. Sometimes it’s catching me in the hall at church or sending me a letter in the mail.
But I’ve found that by going first, by being vulnerable, especially in a public way, it provides an opportunity for others to share the hard things.
It might seem like everyone wants to keep private things private—I myself am a pretty private person and it doesn’t come naturally to me to share vulnerably—but when someone realizes that you’ve been through the same thing, cried the same tears, felt the same frustrations, prayed the same prayers, they often do want to tell their story.
Because we’re never as alone as we think we are.
It is hard though.
It’s hard to share the hard things. It’s hard to even make the space for the relationship that leads to the conversations that enables the honesty.
It’s so much easier to just say we’re okay.
But please don’t, girls.
Please make the space for the hard conversations. The honest conversations. The relationships that empower others to be vulnerable.
There’s no easy how-to for any of that, of course. It’s not something I can do for you, and I don’t know how it happens.
But I do know that those relationships, those stories, are where the Kingdom of God is.
I’m sure of it.