Beyond the Head Nod

This morning I received an email letting me know there was another VIRTUS training module available for me to complete. VIRTUS is on going training required for me to continue to be a part of our youth ministry at church. During a slow period in my day I went ahead and opened the article so I could answer the usually easy question and move on.

At the end of the article about the long-term effects of sexual abuse there was a passage that struck a chord with me:

So if someone tells you her story, do not interrupt or immediately tell her to see a professional—although that might be a very good idea at some point. Do not ask for details. She will tell you what she wants you to know. She has chosen you for a reason. It is not important to know why, but know that you stand in the shadow of the Almighty as you hold a broken heart in your hands.”

This passage provoked a variety of emotions in me, which seems to happen more and more these days. I thought on the passage for awhile and realized that the emotions were stemming from my experiences with ‘stories’ this last year. I was blessed to be a part of a women’s retreat where I heard so many stories. Sad stories. Happy stories. Heart wrenching stories. Mysterious stories. It was an amazing experience. We shared our hurts. We shared our joys. We shared the intimacy of our ‘stories’ and through that we were able to find common ground – Jesus. One of my retreat sisters shared in her testimony that we grow closer to each other in Christ when we share our wounds.

Thinking about that in the context of the above passage brought to light how important we are to the person doing the sharing. “She has chosen you for a reason. It is not important to know why, but know that you stand in the shadow of the Almighty as you hold a broken heart in your hands.” Wow. Having spent a good portion of this year sharing some of my darkest moments, deepest wounds, and secret hopes with other people I am coming to recognize the vulnerability that comes with it and why some people avoid it for so long. It’s painful. And really flippin’ scary to place your life in the hands of others who have the power to reject you. Or make it worse.

How often do I find myself hearing someone else’s story? Even just bits and pieces. Probably more often than I’m even aware. And how often do I remember to call to mind how important the words they are speaking may be to them? How often do I listen with only half of my heart? How often do I glance at a cell phone vibrate or wonder if I’m going to be late if they don’t wrap it up soon?

We all have a story. Our Story. It’s the one thing we have that is uniquely ours. It reminds us where we came from, how we got where we are today, and where we may want to be headed. The details of that story often feel so unimportant to anyone else. It’s important that we remember that we are often being used as Jesus’ conduit. Whether the story details are hard and gruesome or a simple recount of a funny story, that person chose us to talk to. They opened up a part of themselves to share with us.

We owe it to them to listen with our full hearts. To see the vulnerability in their act of sharing. And to love, love, LOVE on them like Jesus loves on us.

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