By Carol Kuykendall
In the springtime of my sophomore year in high school, all my cool friends decided to try out for cheerleader. So of course I wanted to be a cheerleader. To fit in. Besides, my mother always promised me: “You can do anything your want to do, be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough.”
Oh did I try! Practicing hard and long before joining my friends for the official tryouts in front of the whole school. Then they voted on who they liked best. And I began the agonizing wait for the results.
I was sitting in last period algebra when I heard the muffled sound of the PA coming on and the school principal cheerfully announcing, “I have the results of the cheerleading election!” And he proceeded to slowly read the names, one by one, of all my cool friends…but not my name. My face felt hot and my stomach hurt as I wondered how I would get out of that room and down the long main hallway, past all my friends’ lockers and out to the parking lot. And begin to adjust to the reality that – no matter how hard I tried – I couldn’t be everything I wanted to be.
Yet, slowly, over the next few weeks, I experienced a growing desire to do something different than my cheerleader friends, so I joined the staff of the school newspaper where eventually I became editor, a choice that I know today, began to shape the life-long passion I have for words and stories.
“What’s your story?” can be an intimidating question that really means, “What are some life-defining moments that have shaped you into who you are today?”
Your answer forms your “back stories,” gleaned from memories about those experiences that make you YOU.
Yet we reflect on these past experiences with our present day faith and understanding of God’s presence and purposes. That doesn’t change our memory of the experience but it can change our perspective. Today I have a grateful response to that painful public but pivotal loss in high school. This change in perspective is our Inside Story.
Our stories are made up of three main elements: character, conflict and change. Obviously, the character in a personal story is you. The conflict is absolutely necessary to “story” and the more compelling the conflict, the more compelling the story. Our conflicts are compelling when they touch vulnerable universal felt needs within all of us. Loss is universal. Loss was my conflict. If I had won that cheerleading election, I would have had no conflict. No opportunity for change. Therefore no story.
Our courage to be vulnerable and tell stories about our brokenness, painful mistakes and woundedness makes us useful in God’s hands because the change that emerges from such experiences is the most powerful evidence of God’s miraculous presence in our lives.
In the Old Testament and before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, God’s miracles were dramatic and external. But since the Holy Spirit has come to indwell us as believers, God’s most dramatic miracles are internal – changes within us. Changes in our perspective or attitude or character that gives us the ability to extend grace, forgiveness or gratitude. Fruit of the spirit changes within us. Those are the changes that create the stories that give God credit.
They are our Inside Stories that often take courage to know and tell.