Every once in awhile, it comes that there is an opportunity for me to tell part of my story. Anyone who's been around me for any length of time tends to know bits and pieces of where I come from, of the things that have shaped me, although I will also say that no one knows the very heart of my story; I know this for certain because I've never told it.
But bits and pieces, a scene here or there often come in useful when trying to say a good thing about God. After all, all the good things are clearly His doing.
And often times, after I share a part of my story, I'll hear the dreaded words: If someone like you.... It depends on what scene I've shared, and why, as to how that sentence is finished. If someone like you can find a way to move on. If someone like you can find a way to laugh. Recently, it was this: If someone like you can find a way to forgive.
I think it's meant to be a compliment, of sorts. I think it's meant to acknowledge some of the pain, some of the struggle, some of the very real difficulty of some of the stories that I can tell. And I used to be right there with them, taking some kind of misinformed pride in my broken story, exaggerating just the right parts of it to make it, and me, seem almost unfathomable, holding myself up as some kind of standard-bearer, as though this thing we call "living" ought to be easy for everyone else, if for no other reason than that they would not happen to be "someone like me." But as I continue to grow into my story, I understand the way that this approach to story wounds others.
I understand what it must be like to be listening to someone else's story and to be told, in no uncertain terms, that your story is essentially nothing in comparison to this one. Because that's what If someone like you really means. It means this story is completely unique and terrible in a way that no one else knows and that at the very least, a story like this one puts everyone else's piddly problems into perspective. Perspective. It takes away a person's right to feel and to experience and to wrestle with their own story. It takes away their right to struggle with their own brokenness.
I understand what it must be like to be struggling with some very real troubles in your heart, and to be told that you're somehow lesser because you haven't resolved them yet. If someone like me can live, can move on, can laugh, can love, can forgive, can...whatever, then what exactly is taking you so long? Why can't you just get on board with the program and do it, too?
These sorts of things keep me up at night. Because I never want to share my story in such a way that it diminishes someone else's. I never want what God is doing in my heart to be an obstacle to what He is doing in yours. These things, they're not easy. They take time. They take darkness. They take wrestling long into the night. They take tears and heartache and trials and failures.
And the truth is that the same things that make it so hard for you to forgive are the same things that make it hard for me. It's not about the stories we've lived, the details of our lives, the levels of Hell we've been through. If all it took for forgiveness were degrees of story, that's one thing, but that's not how it really works.
What makes it hard is that it isn't easy. There are a thousand easier ways to deal with our own brokenness, our woundedness. It's just as easy for me to embrace bitterness as it is you, and bitterness is far easier than forgiveness. I get that. What makes it hard is that I have the same longing that you do for an apology, two little words - I'm sorry - that aren't coming. I'm never going to hear them. What makes it hard is that I don't want to feel like I'm the one carrying the full weight of the relationship. What makes it hard is that if I pursue something like forgiveness, I have to confess that there is something to forgive. What makes it hard is that in a way, my forgiveness validates this story that I never wanted to be my story. What makes it hard...are all the things my wounded heart must wrestle with to even come to a place where forgiveness sounds like an English word, where it sounds like more than gobbledy-gook or high-brow theology.
To say if someone like you...makes me seem almost superhuman, but I'm not. I'm stuck in the very same mud that you are. It's not about degrees of story; it's about heart. And my heart wrestles with the same ache that yours does. And it's just not fair to say if someone like you because I am you and you are me and we're all on the same page here. It's not a competition. I am able to do what I do because of the work that God is doing in me. He's not doing the same work in the same way in you as He is in me, and truth be told, He's doing some things in you that I wish He'd do a little faster in me.
At the very same time that you're saying, if someone like you... I'm saying, I wish I could be more like you.
Storytelling is not a competitive sport. It's not. And when we try to make it one, someone comes out losing. Losing their own story. Losing their own heart. Losing their own right to wrestle with God, to find Him in the darkness, to struggle with Him in the night, and to find their own way into their story. It's a tragedy.
There is no someone like me. I'm you. You're me. There is no someone like you. There's just...people like us.
By the grace of God.