How to Light a Fire

January 2016 154It seemed like one of those conversations that was just going nowhere.  One of those conversations spinning in memory and woe, pain and hurt, going over one more time the details   as if telling it again might wear a way to clarity.

There is a time for self-pity.  A time for the processing of grief and change.  There is a time for telling the stories over and over again to all who will hear us.  Times like these are essential for finding our way through pain to compassion, to healing and hope.  It was the kind of self-pity they felt walking the lonely road down to Emmaus after Jesus had been killed and grieving that what they had hoped for never happened.  (Luke 24:13-35)

Yes, there is a time for self-pity.

And there is, as well, a time to put it down.  The endless spinning of our stories of woe has no chance of lighting a spark and making a fire of vision, clarity, and newness.

Boy Scouts learn that you need three things to start a fire – oxygen, fuel and heat.

The problem with the familiar conversations we spin of pain and woe, abandonment and hurt is that they don’t make room for any air.  We wind ourselves so tight there’s no room for anything june 2015 044new to get in.  For some air to get in, you need to bring in the possibility of opening up to another story.

Daniel Menaker, author of A Good Talk:  The Story and Skill of Conversation, notes that good conversations depend on three things:  curiosity, humor and impudence.  By impudence he means a little conversational nerve to speak about what we might otherwise not say.

It’s exactly what we see happening in the story.  A dead-end conversation becomes a good conversation.  The stranger interrupts the two friends spinning their tale of woe with a question, “What are you talking about?”  Which leads to the two stopping in their tracks wide mouthed and laughing, “Are you kidding?  Are you the only one who hasn’t heard?”  As they tell their well worn tale one more time, the stranger interrupts them with an audacious, “O how foolish!” and the conversation sparks to a new level as the stranger offers a different interpretation of the same events.

The day has drawn to a close and they come to the village of Emmaus.  The two friends stop at the door of their home.  The stranger walks on.

There is a moment.

This moment.

What do you do?

may 2015 140You know the familiarity of going back and winding around yourself your familiar stories of pain, regret, shame and woe.  You now the familiarity of rubbing over and over the sharp stones of your own broken past.

You know as well that voice that you hear sometimes as a whisper, “It’s not too late.  Change your life.”

There is a moment.  This moment.  What do you do?

Do you go in and shut the door?  Return to spinning in your familiar old story?

Or despite everything in you that is full of fear of where it might lead do you shout down the road and invite the storyteller in, “Hey, come back!  Join us for supper!”

As children we learned that when there is danger of a fire, you put your hand on a door first and don’t open it if it is hot.

If it is God’s spirit, God’s fire beckoning you to new life on the other side of that door, you need to risk opening the door even though you don’t know where it will take you or how it will change 1520you.

If you open the door what may well come forth is an avalanche of verbs like came that day – blessing, breaking, sharing, burning, recognizing, telling.  Changed lives.  A new story.

What will you do?

Today, will you open the door to a new conversation and the possibility of hearing a different story?

2 thoughts on “How to Light a Fire

  1. I have read a number of your post and have enjoyed them and I have commented as to their value which has always been positive. I have to say I disagree with what you are saying in your essay here. If a person is sharing their issues and emotions to draw attention to themselves with no real desire to heal then there is a pathology and sharing over and over may very well not help. On the other hand it can be extremely helpful for a person to share his or her pain over and over. Insight can be gained. Guilt or shame can be removed from sharing. Acceptance can be found through sharing ones pain. Of course there are many other proven Therapeutic reason to encourage sharing even repetitive sharing. AA which is a well known successful treatment is repetitive. Please don’t get me wrong taking one’s pain to Jesus is the key and I believe God will use professional Therapist, friends and Pastors to heal. People can abuse the process of sharing and get secondary gain from the repetitive sharing and there are people who want to tell their story over and over just to validate they are accepted and valued. I hope I made sense. Corky

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    • Dear Corky – Thanks for your response and very helpful comment and reminder. It is vital to our health and healing to have our stories known and shared – I agree. The question that comes up for me is when does that stop being helpful and does it lead to a spinning in a story that has no room for change. The stories we tell ourselves are powerful and both need to be heard and need to be opened to new ways to hear. Thanks for opening up the conversation and this continuing dialogue.

      Peter

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