I remember the first time I shared my story. Thoughts raced through my mind, “Are you sure you want to do this, Dallas? I mean, maybe a story like mine was fine to share with certain people, but not with the general public, and certainly not in a church. Thankfully, I had a few friends with different opinions. “Who cares what they think? They encouraged me in the fact that my story could set other people free. I made a choice that day that my story belonged to God, not me. If He wanted me to share it, I would. The vision for the Reshape Institute, the organization I founded, was birthed out of my story. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if I hadn’t stepped out shared it with other people.
It saddens me to say but, many times it is the ones who call themselves “Christians” that are the most judgmental. I remember a friend once saying something about a popular country music singer that blew my mind. We were all at a Christmas concert where this singer gave his testimony. The audience was touched and his message was well received. The next morning at breakfast the first thing this friend said to me was, “I can’t believe that guy last night saying all that about stuff about God and his relationship with Christ. What a hypocrite!” I asked why he felt that way. “I looked him up on the internet last night”, he said. “That guy has been married 5 times! How could anyone married 5 times be authentic?” “Do you know anyone who has been married 5 times?”, he asked. I responded with an astounding yes followed by the fact that the woman at the well who Jesus forgave was married…yes, 5 times. Needless to say the rest of the morning was somewhat uncomfortable.
What is wrong with that picture? We even judge our political candidates based on their past rather than their present abilities and character? Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest Presidents in American history, had a nervous breakdown following the loss of his fiancé’ not to mention failing multiple times throughout his career. Do you think he would stand a chance of being elected today? What about David in the Bible? Man after God’s own heart, right? The boy who slayed a giant and became King of a nation….who also committed murder and adultery. Would this man stand a chance among today’s “Christian community?” Something tells me his chances would be slim. He probably wouldn’t even be allowed in some churches, much less associate with the congregation. Maybe what the churches today need more people with tattoos, earrings and motorcycles and less “perfection.”
Folks, your story is powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The truth is, we all have one. Your greatest test is your greatest testimony. It shows people what is possible, that second chances are real and restoration is available for all who embrace it.
In the early 1950’s there were articles in sports magazines quoting scientists explaining that it was physically impossible for runners to run a mile in less than four minutes. Nevertheless, in 1954 Roger Bannister proved them wrong when he broke that record. Once Banister conquered the physical and psychological barriers that were thwarting previous runners, suddenly other runners began to run a mile in less than four minutes too. Just like Bannister’s story released other people to overcome the barriers they faced, people need to hear our stories to overcome the barriers they are facing. They need to know it is possible to finish their education when they thought it was too late, to overcome addiction, to see their marriage restored, to overcome abuse, to come back from a set back no matter how small or large.
That means we need to open our mouths and ignore the negative comments. The woman in the Bible did just that. She was a broken woman with a scandalous past who encountered Jesus while drawing water from a well. Her interaction with him changed the trajectory of her life and others. She had a choice that day. After her time with Jesus, she could have gone back to the comfort of her home and relished in her experience. Instead, she boldly went into the town to share her experience and, as a result of her story, many believed.
There are people who need to hear your story. There are people on the other end of your perseverance. They are counting on you to overcome the obstacles you are facing and to be brave enough to share…to boldly go where no one has gone before. They need your story to persevere and realize we are all sinners saved by grace. No judgments…just acceptance. Embracing each other and expressing love for who we are. When we share our story, we give the gift of “me too.” We help people to tangibly understand that they are not alone, that they can overcome and hopefully, lessen the judgmental attitudes that are so prevalent today.