Saturday, 14 June 2014

Untold Stories

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you."
 -Maya Angelou

When I was a child, my Grandmother and I would regularly visit the library, borrow a ton of books and we would spend hours together reading stories. I'm sure I frustrated my Grandmother though because often I wasn't content with just reading the stories, but telling many of my own stories as we went along! 

Kids are funny like that, right? Between the ages of about 4-12 children seem to think that they must tell you everything, as if every story they have to tell contains crucial information for the rest of their existence and if they don't tell you they will spontaneously combust!

Somewhere along the line though, societal expectations choke out the imagination of story telling. Life becomes less about the narrative and more about checklists. My life over the last few years has become about a checklist: get a car, get a degree, get a girlfriend, travel, get a promotion; pretty much my life became about fleshing out my resume or list of achievements. But when you're confronted with decisions about where you're going next, tick boxes and achievements are little help. There needs to be a deeper consciousness of the story God is leading you through.

I often tell the story that when I went to the seminary to train to become a priest, I would feel an urging or a prompting to go a different direction in life. In faith-speak we'd say that it was the Holy Spirit leading me. But even that can sound a bit ambiguous, and it didn't really explain fully what was going on within me. Then I read the above quote from Maya Angelou, and I think it articulates what was going on in me. For me, as I underwent my formation and training for the priesthood, I had this sense from God that there was an untold story within me.

Let me make this very clear though: it wasn't about wanting to have a girlfriend, or wanting to do normal things like other 19/20 year olds, and it wasn't about needing to get more life experience before I became a priest; it was a calling to engage a story I needed to tell. That story included two years of youth ministry and now one and a half years with the Vocations office. I didn't go back to the seminary to continue my formation for priesthood (it's important to note that many men do leave and return later in life); but I can start to see how the pieces of my past fit together and it helps me to understand where I'm going in the future.

The whole "you have a story to tell" thing gets a bit old, I know. But whichever phrase you want to use - story, calling, destiny, purpose, life, whatever - you have it and its beautiful and powerful and unique; and you will never know it unless you engage in it. And leaving that story untold isn't just your loss; for God would use that story to impact on the world and on the Church. Don't leave your story untold, it is mysteriously necessary to the community of humanity.

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