On Sunday I preached three times on a theology of mental health and finding Jesus in the darkest of places, sharing some of my story along the way.
It’s something I do a lot, it’s a part of my job.
But there was something particularly poignant about sharing at my home church. Usually I can share and then leave churches to mull over their response without having to worry that lots of people now know some of the darkest parts of my story. Sharing this message at my home church seemed riskier somehow; they’re family, I see them every week.
And after each service yesterday I felt as though I were missing a layer of skin and today I feel a little bruised – but in a good way – because I think I’ve learned a few things along the way about story sharing and the vulnerability hangover which follows.
Over the past seven years of sharing some of my story online and in person; gearing up to release the book there have been a few things that have helped keep me safe and sane along the way.
- The first is that very early on, I decided on the parameters of what was for sharing and what was to be kept safe. This has been a helpful yardstick, knowing how much of my story to share from the beginning means that I’m not tempted to share more or less depending on the situation and I don’t get into tricky situations where some people know more than others and I have to keep track of who knows what!
- The second is related to the first, but its that I’m mindful to share my own story – not anyone else. Obviously there are plenty of other key characters in my story, but their stories are not mine to tell, where I do share stories featuring others I make sure they have copy-approval before I share and anonymise them if needs be.
- Thirdly, as much as there are parts of my story I keep between myself and my loved ones, I recognise that my story is just a tiny part of the story of God’s people trying to love Him better and share that love the best way they know how. It doesn’t matter, ultimately if others think differently of me because of my story; what matters is that at every junction I point others to the ultimate author. Telling our stories shouldn’t be done at the expense of the gospel to fill time, but told to highlight the greater story we are all a part of.
- Finally, I try to make sure that a day of intense vulnerability is followed by one of rest and fun. If I’m to keep doing what I believe God is calling me to do, I need to make sure that I’m having time to recharge and allow the bruises to heal.
What things do you think are important when sharing your story?