I walked by the book too many times to count. I would see it out of the corner of my eye and think, oh, I need to get to that. But truthfully, I had tried- and it was too overwhelming. The book, Befriending Our Desires by Phillip Sheldrake, sounded interesting but was also incredibly dense and more than I wanted to think about. So as we gathered in our year two class this past weekend at Kairos School of Spiritual formation, we finally started sifting through this issue of desire. When we got to it, some things began to rise to the surface for me. Some desires were of topics and issues that I cared deeply about. Some were about how I wanted so desperately to live. But when it all came together, the root of it all seemed to come back to one thing- telling stories.
Ever since our trip to Detroit a few weeks ago, I’ve been back to living in the tension between two life stories. One, a story of a people and place that in areas, looks like a war zone. Another, a lush green country side that smells of manure and has Amish buggies on it’s roads. A story of being surrounded by people who lived moment to moment, day to day. A story of a suburban neighborhood full of nice new homes and new ones always being built. A story of a city of abandoned homes and abandoned dreams. A story of living out the American dream. Both places and stories beautiful and heartbreaking in their own way.
Two stories that were links to people of many stories. My life, exposed to both, yet neither feeling exactly my own. And now I was sitting in this circle of people, attempting to put words to my desires in the midst of living a life of multiple stories. My heart longed to adequately explain how I see a place where all stories are recognized as whole and beautiful. How I so deeply desire to be part of a community or a Kingdom where all are welcome, no matter the story.
I recently watched this Ted talk where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares The Danger of a Single Story. In it she says, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” And it helped me to appreciate the beauty of living in this tension of many stories. It is not always a comfortable place to live, but it keeps us in touch with the reality of life and is continually challenging us to rethink our long held truths. Rachel Held Evans also references this talk in a recent blog post where she tackles the issue of homosexuality and the Evangelical culture. She says, “Of course, there is always a tendency to highlight and endorse the stories that fit most comfortably into our worldview. I am as guilty of this as anyone else. Whereas conservatives tend to ignore stories that suggest sexual orientation is not usually a choice, progressives tend to dismiss stories that suggest sexuality may be more fluid in some cases.”
Do you ever hear people talking in stereotypes and cringe inside? Do you ever hear those things come out of your own mouth and want to kick yourself later? Do you hear someone’s strong view on how the poor just need to get a job and think to yourself- “Well that sounds great, but if they ever heard so and so’s story they would understand how it just doesn’t work that way.” I have spent much of my life in confusion over how to live a life between so many stories and I am now seeing that as a gift. I can name that desire of mine to tell these stories so that we all can experience the beauty of diversity.
So listen to the story.
Hear each other’s stories.
Believe each other’s stories.
Validate one another’s stories.
And please, please- share your own.
And if you live in the tension of so many stories, receive it as a gift. Your world grows bigger with each story you allow into your own.