The Inside Story

ropeIt isn’t often in our scattered existence that my wife and I get to sit with close extended family from both sides in the same week.

This week we do…and few things are more precious.

When you sit with people who have been in your life all your life, who know the ins and outs of your backstory and who love you anyhow, the beautiful reality of a love we are created to enjoy rushes over you like a waves on the beach.

These tender moments help pour meaning into the mundane and significance into the daily task of living a life on purpose. Times like this are incredibly deep and incalculably influential. The way they shape our story is nothing less than super-natural. They are the gift made from hearts…better than any made by hand.

  • The laughter of knowing hearts celebrating our crazy-making attempt to live authentically.
  • The compassion of sympathetic ears listening for whispers of the divine in our dailyness.
  • The poignancy of wise words spoken into the cloudiness of life inside our frenetic preoccupation.
  • The embrace of warm arms dispensing love that is completely aware of our flaws and fully accepting of our needs.

We have been blessed with a big family that lives from a common stream of faith, passion and commitment. We enjoy the benefit of loved ones who not only share our DNA but also our vision. We have the safety net of extended families who know our history and still believe in our destiny.

It is always raw, real and raucous when we get together.

Each family member in their particularity and uniqueness offers something to enrich our lives, broaden our understanding, deepen our faith and challenge our complacency.

In short…they know us. They make up the inside story.

This intimacy provides a secure and fertile environment for us to expose where we’ve been, express where we are and explore where we ought to be headed. In these too infrequent moments we simply pick up where we left off last time as we excavate our hearts and extend our hopes.

The wise old man of Ecclesiastes understood the crucial role these “insiders” play in the fulfillment of destiny.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

This verse is really important in our family. It is an understanding we have come to through much pain, separation, brokenness and healing. Our daughter even has these words and the delicate image of a three stranded cord tattooed down her side to represent her and her two brothers. She is literally branded by the love of her family.

And this reality is what we have experienced all week as we sat in gentle and significant moments with this family. Not trying to make anything happen…just letting whatever is supposed to happen overtake us.

Here is some of what we do in those rare but precious hours.

  • We review history–making sense from what has been. It is both easy and essential to swap the unvarnished versions of our stories. We are unafraid of judgment and unconcerned with appearance. We simply tell the tales and allow those we love to bring out the shades of hope and meaning.
  • We rehearse dreams–creating hope for what will be. These are rich beds of well-fertilized soil into which we can deposit the precious, sacred seed of our hopes and dreams and know they will be held in expectation while they germinate. These people really believe in us…and in all the unimaginable we are imagining.
  • We reveal pain–finding healing for what still hurts. We can let down our guards here. Be who we are–how we are in the face of where we are. Pretense and pretending aren’t needed here. They know too much about us to be impressed or depressed. They simply open their scarred hearts to embrace our fresh wounds.
  • We release fears–gaining support for what is yet hidden. The power of these moments when we can unveil the timidity and trepidation in which we face what has not yet unfolded in our lives is potent and visceral. Those who are farther down the path of life let us know it will be ok. Those behind us challenge us to make sure we cut a good path toward a great end that they can both follow and extend.
  • We renew connections–building bonds for what really matters. In short, we reflect on our team–the difference-makers in our lives–and pull those troops together around our hopes and hurts to draw the grace we long for and the strength we desperately need to continue to do life as it is in the way that it should be.

These moments are shaping, healing and sustaining. Whether laughing over foibles or weeping over frustrations, these times are sacred and sacramental. They transform living into life.

These people form the safe circle of unconditional love that define and defend our existence.

They both deeply know and lovingly create our inside story.

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