A couple of years ago Chick-fil-A made a video for their employees to remind them that everyone has a story. I’ve included the video at the end of this post. I really encourage you to take a look at it. Every life has a story. The title is so true. Each person we meet has a story. The ladies at the convenience store that we frequent – the team members at Chick-fil-A – the guests at Chick-fil-A – the military recruiters – the people at the gas station – the people at the library – and even in the church. Every life has a story. Each of us brings our story into the story of others. Sometimes these stories end up in conflict with each other – especially when we don’t understand their story or we pre-judge their story.
Believe it or not – judging people’s story even comes to the church. I believe that many times it is because we don’t take the time to get to know one another. We make value judgments on the other person because we don’t understand or don’t care to know their story. Perhaps we have never walked in their shoes, so we have no idea what is going on in their life.
Let me share with you a personal story of how that worked in my life. We were part of a church that enjoyed hugging each other. They even said that that was who they were – they were a hugging church. Unfortunately, there was a person or two who enjoyed hugging too much. This made me very uncomfortable. We had a chaplain friend and his family come to speak at our church and he was surprised at what he saw. He was upset that this person was hugging inappropriately. We were still relatively new to the church and were still figuring out the lay of the land – so to speak. After some discussion with our chaplain friend, Dale and I put appropriate boundaries in place.
Now part of the story is that a family from the north moved to the south. We had a bit of a cultural tug-of-war. Being that we are from “up north,” we are not big on hugging as a way of showing friendship – especially with people we really don’t know. Remember, at this point, we had only been at the church a short time. Some of the people thought we were being cold northerners. Meaning we were acting just the way they thought people from “New York” would act. They even said this person was “just showing Jesus’ love.”
So what really happened is judgments were made without “knowing the story.” No one ever asked me why I felt the way I did – no, it was not because I was from “the north.” No one took the time to get to know me. Yes, I know that is a danger in being the pastoral family – people have all sorts of assumptions about us – and we are judged on those. And to a point, we sometimes have assumptions about those in the church.
So why did I feel this way? When I was younger I had a foster brother who touched me in an inappropriate way. If someone would have asked me, I would have told them that I did not mind getting hugs from men but that a person in the church had crossed a line that that moved into inappropriate territory. This was belief and it was my decision to make because it was my body. As time went on, I wondered how I would be judged at the next event – slowly the wall was built. I would come home and cry because I felt I was being punished for something that was not my fault and for something I hadn’t done. Then I though about those outside the church – those who may have been in the church, but on the fringe – if that was the way I felt – if they didn’t take time to get to know me – what about those outside the church? Would they take the time to find out that every life has a story?
In every church there are people who sit in the pews – there are people who are on the fringes who need love and care. They are afraid that they are going to be judged without people knowing their story. Dale and I love working with the fringe people. Sometimes that gets us in trouble those on the inside think they aren’t getting our attention. Jesus spent a great deal time with the people on the fringe – those whom the Pharisees judged as publicans and sinners — the people who were hurting. I really want to encourage – both pastors and their spouses and even more so church to remember that every life has a story. Each person that touches the church has a story. Sometimes to get to know the story might mean that we may get messy. Remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? The people said, “Don’t get involved now. He’s been dead for four days. By now he stinks!” And yet, Jesus did what those around told him not to do. Yes, it was messy, but it was glorious. Getting to know the story of those around us may be messy – it will take time – it may take money – but it will be glorious. I encourage you to watch the video below.