I’m trying to fit in some pastoral visits before I finish up at KHR. Having had a cold the other week has meant they’ve piled up somewhat so I’m doing a bit of juggling to fit in as many as I can reasonably do. Anyhoo… that’s for me to juggle and not complain about.
I’ve done two visits so far and they were both quite different yet the common theme might be the stories that the two people had to tell. More to the point, they actually had stories worth hearing. How many people are sitting in our circle of acquaintances with a story that would rival that of any best-selling page-turner? More than we know I suspect. Tales of danger (and I mean real danger), exotic travel, loyal service and all the more fascinating and exciting for being true. And generally told with such modesty too and even then only told after a fair bit of prompting. One elderly lady, who looks very ‘proper’ – ‘posh’ even – used to drive Bedford trucks and all manner of other things during service in the RAF. Other stories of wartime service are just downright scary.
It means that we often then look upon the person in a very different light. But why should we have to hear a story before that happens? And what of the ongoing story? The ups and downs of a faith journey can be every bit as exciting and it is a journey we get to share, particularly in a pastoral capacity. One of my hospital chaplaincy placement visits last week was notable in this respect. I kept being asked my story and found myself sharing my testimony with a chap. I felt I had spoken too much and not really spent enough time getting his story. But at the end the visit he told me how much he had appreciated hearing it because he takes so much strength and encouragement from hearing how God works in others.
The point, I guess, is that we all have stories to share and discover from others. Stories bind us to one another through shared experience, shared anxieties, shared enthusiasms. Stories also bring understanding and can be a source of strength, encouragement or even act as a salutary lesson in what not to do. This is especially true when it comes to faith, I would suggest. Sharing stories requires trust though. We are all concerned about whether, through our stories, we will sound ridiculous, prideful, arrogant, stupid. When we have an opportunity to receive a story it’s important, I believe, to acknowledge the gift and to treat that story with respect. Whether it’s ridiculous or exciting, the story is who that person is, their picture of themself. How else can we get to really know one another, except through our stories?