All right now, raise your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve ever heard someone at a family/friend gathering tell a story for the zillionth time.
But I beg you to show no disdain for the storyteller, because you know good and well you have a couple of these in your own back pocket. And even more important, chances are there’s a very good reason that tales like this keep resurfacing.
I say this because I myself have such a story. I’ve told it in A Hope Deferred and in The Embrace of a Father and in Born To Be Wild. My husband and daughter and many of my friends could retell it with no trouble.
And now I’m sharing it with you…for a very good reason. So put on your sweatpants, grab a hot mug of something and a leftover Christmas cookie, and gather around the fire. Aunt Jill is at it again.
Once upon a time…
I was a lazy little six-year old goof-off who loved Dum-Dum suckers, and sneaked them out of the candy dish in the kitchen and off into the living room, where I ate them while I watched TV. Knowing that I would get into trouble for my contraband food, though, I had to be creative in hiding the evidence Ultimately, I came up with a plan:
My parents’ bedroom was right off the living room, and the door was conveniently located close to the TV. On the back of the door hung a full-length mirror: the perfect place to hide the evidence! I was jubilant, because I figured that I could probably hide wrappers and sticks behind that mirror till I graduated from high school, and no one would be the wiser.
Of course my mother discovered them one day, told my father, and he called my brother and me into the living room for a confrontation. Since my brother, Ted, was six years older than me, knew everything, and was innocent of the crime, I decided that I’d follow his lead in responding to Daddy’s interrogation.
“All right, who did this?” he asked, looking us over for incriminating facial expressions.
“I didn’t do it, honest,” said Ted.
“I didn’t do it, honest,” I parroted, doing my best to look wide-eyed and innocent.
I could tell Daddy was surprised that neither of us was willing to confess, and I wondered what on earth he could do about it. The last thing I expected him to do was what he did.
After a minute of looking back and forth at us, he simply said, “Okay,” and he let us go.
I couldn’t believe it! I was off the hook! Guilty, but not charged! Life was good!
For a while. About five minutes, maybe. Then I started to feel as guilty as I was.
All day I avoided Daddy at all costs, my heart pounding. Around two in the afternoon, I was playing (okay, hiding) in my bedroom, when he appeared in the doorway. He only wanted to ask me something entirely unrelated to The Deed, but as soon as I saw him, my “guilt reflex” kicked in. In a panic, I threw my hands up in the air like I’d been caught robbing a bank, and shouted, “I didn’t do it, honest!
I think this is what tipped him off.
Still, he said nothing to me about the matter; he only wanted to know how I was doing.
I lasted about three more hours: three more hours of beating a hasty retreat out of whatever room he entered; three more hours of explaining to Barbie and Ken why I was forced to lie to my father; three more hours of imagining the spanking to end all spankings that would surely be mine if I owned up.
Finally, around 5:00 p.m., I could stand the tension no more.
I would confess, I decided, because anything was better than this anxiety that was destroying my efforts to have a Saturday of quality play. So, nervously I tip-toed into the kitchen, where Daddy was sitting at the table with my mom. But before I could say a word, he motioned me to come to him. Bracing myself as I made my approach, I thought, “This is it. I’ve been had.”
To my surprise, though, instead of turning me over his knee, he picked me up, set me in his lap, and whispered in my ear, “Why don’t you tell Mommy it was you who put those sucker sticks behind the mirror?”
At that invitation, my heart burst, and I cried tears of relief, confessing that I was the one who did it and deserved to go to jail. Fortunately, he didn’t think jail was warranted; he just let me sit on his lap till I calmed down, then said, “Why don’t we clean up this mess together?”
(Not) The End…
Because this story continues to teach me after all these years. It is
A manifestation of my Daddy’s love and forgiveness.
A lesson in patience for me as a child and later as a parent myself.
A picture of grace that framed my perception of God as a Father who invites me into His lap when I’ve screwed up, and says, “Oh little nitwit. It’ll be okay. I’ll help you clean up the mess you’ve made. And FYI, nothing you do will make me unlove you.”
That’s a lot of lesson for a little story. Maybe you can see why I will never stop telling it.
And then there’s you.
Please know, my friend, that your stories matter.
They matter to your kids, your friends, your parents, your acquaintances; even to strangers or people who might need encouragement or advice or a smidge more faith.
I know. It takes time. You may feel like you “can’t write.” That, quite frankly, is irrelevant. Just get it out there. And if you just can’t get past writer’s block, I’ll bet you can talk, and push “record.”
So what story do you need to tell?
It might be funny or touching, quiet or raucous.
It may not be especially pleasant. But somehow, deep in your gut, you know that someone needs to hear it.
So tell it
To bring joy or insight or laughter or tears or healing.
To teach and motivate and delight the people in front of you…and those who come after you.
And especially to inspire yourself–in this brand new year–to live a story worth telling.
If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…