I wish you all knew my friend Celie.
Celie is one of the strongest, most beautiful people I have ever known. Her open heart and loving glance has been a blessing to me as I have done some difficult inner work in our Year Two class at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation.
But, what I am most grateful for is Celie’s bravery. I am deeply grateful for her brave heart that has shared her life’s story with me, with all of us. Her story has changed me. I mean this as truth. I am changed – forever. I see people through a new lens. And I watch as Celie gets stronger each month, it allows her story to change the world around her. She is giving a piece of her story to the world in hopes that it will change many hearts. She is taking the broken pieces of her life to bind together and advocate for those hurting around her. She is doing the hard work for those who love people with mental illness and those who are mentally ill.
The world needs Celie.
The Kingdom of God is blessed to have Celie in it.
My hope is that one day Celie will be able to share her story with all of you. I promise you, I mean this, you will not be the same. For every time I hear of something in the news that seems so difficult to wrap my brain around, I think of how mental illness robs people of their sanity and causes them to do things they never thought they were capable. And when I see the faces of these people, I don’t see evil. I see pain. I see brokenness. I see the disconnect with the world around them. And as we all rush to point the finger, hoping to find answers in bad parenting, gun control issues, and addiction- I see so much more. I anticipate that there is a story behind the pain that this person has caused. I know there is a family that loves this person who is so, so sick. I know that the victims are not the only ones hurting. While it does not make their actions acceptable, it tells us more about them- giving us more to look at than a pointing finger. I am less interested in pointing mine. This is because of Celie.
Celie paid a high price for her story. She will even tell you that it cost too much. And, it did. But she is doing the work it takes to live fully in this world while also holding her pain. She is the change she wants to see in the world.
It is our stories that connect us. It is our stories that take the fear out of the stories that divide us. Storytelling can change lives and remove fear. We CAN move from a place of terror into a place of real understanding. All because we choose to share this life with each other. All because of courageous people like Celie who have chosen to tell their story. She has started small. That circle is growing.
You have a story too. We all do. It may not be Celie’s story, but it is important just the same. Be brave and tell it. Your honesty can connect us and change the world.