TELL ME YOUR STORY: THE PROCESS
it's heavy and light.
I am so grateful that my poem Tell Me Your Story is going to be a part of the Social Justice Art Festival at the University of Michigan. I submitted the poem, and gradually, the idea evolved into something far more extensive and exciting than I had planned. I decided to create a giant display, that looks like a book to stick with the theme of story, and display the poem in a large and crazy way, including photographs from some amazing photographers that I have used for my site and connected with via Unsplash. A special thanks to Jerry Kiesewetter and Evan Kirby for extra inspiration and collaboration!
I wrote Tell Me Your Story several months ago. The initial inspiration came from the story of Ted Shawn. Ted Shawn is considered the Father of Modern American Dance because of his leadership, innovation, and pioneering in the field of dance. His story is fascinating. When he was studying at the seminary, he got diphtheria, which led to paralysis. However, through dance he found healing. Through dance, he also got kicked out of seminary. After leaving seminary, he found healing through dance and went on to do brilliant, innovative, and creative things.
He chose healing over systems.
However, isn't it easy to confuse our systems with God? I find this confusion suffocating. God becomes a lot of pressure and expectations, a lot of shoulds. Somehow, he (or she?) stops feeling like love, grace, restoration, creativity, connection, and healing. And in the process, she (or he?) starts feeling heavy. But LORD, I thought your burden was light?
I am starting to think that courage is choosing God over our systems.
I am also starting to think that maybe, just maybe, when we choose ourselves, we choose others.
Because how many of us have been asked to choose? Choice is a crazy thing. We worship it and desire it, yet it quickly becomes a prison of overwhelm. And what about when we're not in a position to choose, or even realize that we are choosing? When we lose touch with what love and healing and connection mean, so we go along with what other people's "shoulds" and systems require of us without realizing that we are paralyzed? What about when it is more ambiguous than the body? What about when we can not have courage because we do not even realize that we are paralyzed?
For comparison, what happens when we stay in seminary? In seminary, we learn about God, but we remain paralyzed, and we know that there was an opportunity for healing outside of this god. However, we're in it. And in it, we keep learning about God, but is that God? Is this the kind of sacrifice that God was talking about in the Bible?
I don't know.
I feel like choosing healing, choosing what we need, and choosing to live from a place of overflowing is love. And I believe that God is love. And I believe that love and God are life. I have seen first hand the paradox of laying my life down from a place of overflow versus laying my life down from a place of force. I have given from abundance, and I have given with greed, hate, and bitterness. I often wonder about the scriptures that we use to promote sacrifice, laying our lives down, and gouging eyes out (if it causes you to sin). I see glimpses of lives lived in beauty, connection, and love because we choose to let go of our agendas. However, I see the death, decay, pain, and hurt of lives lived in disconnection, pressure, shame, and resentment. When all we know is sacrifice, there is no joy, freedom, or love. If God is love, does this mean that when all we know is sacrifice, there is no God?
The problem with truth is that interpretations are subjective, complex, and often there are contradictions within truth itself. Subjectivity, complexity, and contradictions do not fit very neatly into systems. We remain afraid of the complexity of truth and story, and simultaneously, we lose trust. We do not trust each other to know the truth that we know. This is terrifying, as a Christian. This idea that there are different truths that different people know is not at all accepted in the Christian circles that I have known. But what if that is what God meant that we are all a part of one body? What if God didn't decide to reveal truth to one person, but made humans to be a team? That makes is less scary, but for some reason, we have a hard time getting there.
Tell Me Your Story seeks to serve as a reminder and an invitation. It is a reminder that your story matters because you are a part of the collective body of humanity. It is an invitation to honor your story, trust your story, and share your truth however that looks for you.
I have become quite obsessed with these concepts and questions. I have also realized that often in our culture, we wait until funerals to tell stories. I have been to three of the most amazing memorial services in the past year. Each time, I thought, "I wish that I knew more of their story. I wish that this wasn't the first time that I heard this. I wish that I would have asked better questions. I wish that I lived in a more connected humanity."
I want to begin collecting stories. Eventually, I hope to do some more formal interviews so I can practice asking better questions. However, I also want as many stories as I can get. If you have it in you, please email me your story (or a part of your story or truth) at Lou@Loupsidedown.com
I don't want to tell you how to tell your story, but I do want to encourage your truth. Don't be ashamed to give me the funeral, to give me the mess, to give me the real and the raw. Don't be ashamed to give me your light, your beauty, and the grace and creativity that you have found.
My hope is to make a book. I would love to be able to collect enough stories and help several people share their truth and experiences. I would love to collaborate with others to tell stories that we do not commonly share. I want to beat the funeral to the punch. I want to be a better part of our collective, human story. I would love your help.