“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Maya Angelou
“You don’t get to make up most of your story. But you get to make peace with it.” Ann Voskamp
My son Brandt has officially discovered that the world is his playground. He is one happy toddler boy. The problem comes in that he sometimes wants to do more than his body is coordinated to accomplish. Which means he falls over while walking. Or the toy he is banging against his father’s leg accidentally strikes him in the head.
“Bonkers!” That’s been my word for when he gets hurt. My comic book sound effect. Cute, right?
I say it to him as I pick him up and make sure he’s really okay. Most of the time it just scares him and he’s fine. So I set him down and then he does this really curious thing. He walks over to where he hit his head and slowly bumps his head in the same spot on the wall or the floor. Or if it was a toy, he picks up the toy and slowly re-hits himself. And then he looks up at me to see that I’m watching and understanding.
He did it just the other night when we were out to eat with friends. Somehow in the shuffle of bringing tables together, he got his hand pinched. Not a bad pinch thankfully. But for the next few minutes, he kept sticking his hand back in the crack and holding his hand up for me to kiss it. Saying, “Ouch… Ouch… Ouch…” We repeated this reenactment several times. And then he was okay. Back to putting stickers on the table.
Its an absolutely fascinating ritual.
And I realize he does this to work through the pain of what just happened. Its how he tells his story. And its his little ceremony for getting over the fear. He’s testing his world again to make sure its safe. He’s getting his courage back.
No one taught him this. We teach him a lot of other things: how to eat with a spoon, how to walk, how to speak english. But this one is just innate. Instinct, I guess we’d say. His heart is wired to return to the places he was hurt and work through them.
Do you do this? Okay, not the bumping your head ritual. But do you honor your pain enough to revisit the places you’ve been hurt? Have you told the hard and painful stories of your life and worked through them enough to get your courage back?
If its instinct, most of us have lost it along the way. At some point, we get this terrible notion that we need to just keep going. Everything becomes spilled milk and almost nothing is worth crying about anymore. Life takes on a pace that we get used to and its just easier to let the momentum keep us going on and on. Who has time to sit around and feel bad for themselves? If we aren’t bleeding we must be fine.
This is the kind of thing we tell ourselves. And worse, tell each other.
I get asked a lot, “Why do I need to talk about this? It happened so long ago.” And I usually don’t know what to say because it seems so obvious from where I sit looking in on a person’s story. You go back because your heart got stuck somewhere. You never worked it through enough to get rid of your pain or fear or heartache. You never told your story. And so you never got your courage back.
Often our stories fade into the unremembered fog of so many yesterdays. We just try and forget them. And then we forget what we’ve forgotten. But Evil never forgets. And if we never take the time to interpret what happened, then Evil will do that for us in the form of accusation. Evil loves secrets and silence because then it can narrate for us.
I sat with a man yesterday who told me a story he has been ashamed to talk about for five years. Five years ago he was injured in an accident at work. The ladder he was standing on slipped and he hit the ground hard. His buddies got him help right away. Thankfully, he only shattered his arm. And was able to get back to work in a short amount of time. So everyone sighed in relief for him, seeing it as such a good ending to what might have gone terribly worse.
But his heart had not healed. No one knew that when he fell twenty feet he thought he was a dead man. The memory of the ladder slipping and the fear of life being over had haunted him like unseen ghosts ever since. That moment started him down a really slippery slope depression. He gave up his passions, like hiking and running. He stopped going to church. His wife could barely touch him without his anger boiling over. He just wanted to be left alone.
Oh, of course, not really.
“I haven’t talked about this with anyone. I feel so embarrassed to admit all this. I feel so stupid. It was only five minutes of my life. Why can’t I just forget about it and move on.”
But then the tears came. And kept coming. He sat and wept on the couch. He finally let all that fear come to the surface and find its way out. It was powerful. A holy moment. I sat with tears in my own eyes for him. And in the tears and the truth we could so much more easily hear where Evil had been accusing him, lying to him, offering its own twist on reality. It made all the difference.
I asked him how he was doing at the end of our session. “I feel about 30 pounds lighter now. I had no idea this was all still sitting in my chest.” Of course his healing is not totally over. But so much of his heart came back. His face was different when walked out of my office. All this for telling a story he had been trying to forget.
So what stories have you never told anyone? Where have you lost your courage to live? Its time to get your heart back.