The quiet story.
The conversation was between some friends. The three sat and discussed a topic of interest, but it was not a light topic. It was engaged and active and with strong understanding and convictions of history and hope, and while not aggressive or adversarial, it came with intensity and intent of purpose. It was borne of familiarity and the rapport of friends, but it was not random conversation of the day’s activities. With the intent of a place to go, this conversation walked briskly.
While it was on this journey, to a place of understanding, there came a voice of a different tone. One that was not a stranger, but one that was not frequent. Friendly, but not quite familiar. Complementary to the subject at hand, but from a place of shadows. You have heard this voice before, and sometimes been hit by the surprise that it was your own… It is of a timbre and resonance that reveals a strength and vulnerability of which you were not expecting. Going to a place and revealing something you were not aware was there. We have all had these, though some more than others. They come in odd and seemingly disconnected ways to reveal, most generally, a scar connected to a story. In certain places and times we may have been aware of the obvious limp, we simply didn’t know the story behind it. You may recall these moments. They are fleeting and reveal a fold in time, if you will. A split second where the opportunity to enter into a dimension, of not this place and not this time, is given such a subtle glimpse and then will pass away. The comment by your grandmother about a lost child during hard years of her youth, or the fleeting memory of a battle in the jungle by your uncle that is told in a different voice than the usual sharp edge of the story. It is when you are with a classmate near a fire and the stars are bright that you hear of the incest or the abuse that otherwise is never spoken or revealed. It can be as simple as planning a coffee date and the comment is “well, Thursday is out, I have a Dr. appointment so how about Friday”. There it is. The door, and the amount of permission that you received. Willing to talk about the appointment if you will bring it back to the table, but just a passing comment otherwise about a busy week. If there were more information, like what the appointment was for, if it was only the first of many or the last of many, they would have given you that info. But as it was, it is where you begin. If you will be bold enough to gently ask later, you will be one of the few.
It has happened to me. Many times, actually. People will be running down a conversation path and then it appears. The ever so small trail into the woods. If you will ask. If they will tell. Many times, there is a short path over a rocky trail to reveal a small meadow of the hidden story. Often there is a marker and a long extinguished fire. Something was consumed there. Something was left as a memorial to it. One of personal pain, and potential shame. Some that have been well tended, but not well known. Some that are even, with this telling, a place they have not been since even the very day of it’s beginning. I have seen this meadow, and the face with the shock at the remembering, and the fear of the knowing that you now know. Both the secret and the way to get there, as well as the danger of the revealing to others of it. The quiet story. Almost whispered… my son died…
To some that have ground through the work of healing, their anxiety is gone. The story will come but not the joy of the telling. It will have a purpose for the telling. It is not to be wasted and it is not trivial. To the ones not yet done with that, there is a less mature side. Anxious if they are unsure, fear if there is a potential for the judgement and shame. Perhaps it is the story that will destroy, like in “The Scarlet Letter”, when the young pastor will not own the lie he has lived. He cannot know the freedom that the letter has brought to Hester Prim. Once you have reconciled the reality that will not change, curiously then, it does. For Hester it was the reality that she would wear that letter as an act of shame, but also protection of her love. But later on, as her character was played out before the people of her town they would then re-label the letter to Angel and not Adulterer, on their own. This is the power of the transformation of the story. From a place of horror and shame and guilt, to a place of power, strength and resolve. It is the place of this strength that the story then is told less and more selectively, but with great effect.
So, what to do… Well, I know the transition of that dark place of shame to a simple place of quiet strength is a journey not taken lightly. To walk that path is to own your part, whatever that is, and to realize it will not change. You may certainly be the victim in the play, but you cannot stay that way. You may forever be fearful of snakes, but you will still take up the stick to defend against one. While you will not seek it out, you will not shirk from it. To watch another be violated by a predator is a crime that you will not allow if it is within your capacity to prevent. But if that is not your role, then perhaps “hope giver” is. To come along beside when they are at the ready to listen, to then speak of the life with the limp. Telling the quiet story of your own journey through those same lands.
The quiet story is one of merit, and of hope to the hopeless. A drink of water when the thirst is strong. Your own story spoken, or another that is told to you, the story is one of power through brokenness and refreshment in a dry land. An example: When the young man (I worked with) from a tradition that didn’t allow for divorce had it forced upon him, he was consigned to become an adulterer by the application of tradition that you cannot re-marry. As a result when he showed up with a hickey on his neck,(and being young I taunted him) he explained that his was a hopeless cause and that he, being consigned to hell might as well live that way. It was through a series of conversations that I explained that the idea that that one sin was, alone and singly, not under the redemptive power of the blood of Christ was a misapplication of the verse, so that he could have hope again of restoration. Never again would he be able to claim a life of marriage to but one person, but he could claim “hope” for the wounded that were as he was. He has a quiet story. So do we all. They may not deal with the issue of adultery, but they will be of merit to another with the same limp. Perhaps it is large and dramatic, perhaps it is small and embarrassing. It matters to the one to whom it matters. Let them know that you have a tale to tell, and that you will listen if they wish to talk. Quiet stories are powerful things. Be brave, be vulnerable. Be where the story is. Go where the story goes. Read the etchings on the stone. Rebuild a fire, warm yourself. Invite another to sit with you… and listen to the sounds of a memory.
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