There is power in telling a story—especially our personal story. When we put words on our authentic, vulnerable, sometimes laughable realities, we build bonds through shared human experiences. We listen to stories of others and experience the commonality of the human heart. Sharing and listening to life stories paves a path for affirmation, inspiration, empathy, and connection.
God offers his Church the Bible as a holy example of the power and influence in storytelling. Reading, studying and meditating on his sacred word brings us into deeper relationships with our Creator and with the longings of our heart and soul. Hearing the timelines, parables, and events of Scripture unifies individuals as they listen and learn alongside one another.
Our heavenly father has never stopped creating; he offers new stories through every human life. Our voices and our bodies are the means by which we share these stories with others—and glorify him—as the details of our lives unfold.
As we think of our own stories, who we share them with, and how we emphasize the details, it’s important to have intention as we recall and retell memories. Simply put, the way we remember an experience affects the way we speak about it. And the way we speak affects how others feel or how they think.
Consider, then, the opportunity and responsibility of sharing the stories of our married lives.
There is, of course, a healthy boundary to vulnerability; certain experiences and conversations between spouses should stay private. Yet within the vocation to married life is a journey of love, which every human heart yearns to hear and know. How you offer these stories, to strangers and loved ones alike, has the power to make an impact on your listeners’ hearts and minds.
For example, if you recall a circumstance as challenging, disheartening, or obstructive, then the tone in your storytelling will model those emotions to the audience. On the other hand, if your memory of an experience is positive, funny, or related to personal success, your body language and tone of voice will convey those emotions. Social scientists recognize that when we desire connection with others, listeners subconsciously mimic the speaker’s body language, breathing rate, and tone of voice. Whether they know it or not, the speaker is a model of emotion and attitude.
This insight has been a catalyst for me to pay attention to my internal dialogue and to be thoughtful as I share personal stories with others. I often find myself separating stories of my marriage from stories of life circumstance. I try to comprehend and share marriage as one dimension of life, while our jobs and daily logistics are another entity. With this approach, I frequently recall the moments when these two worlds collide; I speak of these experiences with a frustrated, puzzled, and tense tone. What impact does this have on the individuals who listen to me?
Fortunately, a mentor calmed weakness to this perspective; he helped me recognize the beautiful complexity of the calling and vocation to married life. We are not only called to become a wife. Every movement of every day, every detail and circumstance is an purposeful piece of our specific vocation.
Reflecting on the gift of vocation in this all-encompassing perspective has affected the way I tell my stories. The life circumstances I once perceived as obstacles have become moments for growth and grace in my marriage. The plot twists which used to shatter plans and positivity are now recognized as God’s hand guiding our path according to his divine mystery.
With a new perspective, my body language, word choice, and tone of voice has shifted. The storytelling that once left people empathizing with my frustration has a new potential to invite others into hope as we embrace the struggles of early family life as a gift from God.
Reflect on how you tell the stories of your vocation; how do you want to make people feel as they listen to and engage with your vulnerability?
God desires to use our stories as a means for his presence in the world. As we tell a story and give glory to God, we may open someone’s eyes to recognize his hand in their own life. When we celebrate life’s challenges and obstacles as gifts to our vocation, we may give someone else permission to see their circumstances with hope, patience, or a sense of humor.
This is not about sugar-coating our stories, but about keeping our eyes on God as we recall and retell our life experiences. Marriage inevitably involves taking up a cross and abandoning our own will. Dying to self requires a surrender of pride and oftentimes involves some kind of pain. Although there are times when pain is offered as a hopeful prayer, other realities invoke an honest and raw sadness in pain. Each story deserves to be shared authentically and in truth. No matter the depth of pain and suffering, God is writing your story as his personalized gift of love to you.
When we speak about our lives, our vocation, with an authentic or gracious tone, we cultivate a strong culture of marriage; we uphold a culture that receives every experience as a gift and offers the stories of our lives as a living testimony of faith, hope, and love.