I can’t seem to get last week’s episode #32 out of my mind. The one where I mention that if we know what we’re made for, it will answer the question, what am I here for? What is my purpose in life?
I made the case that we were made for relationships, using the acronym T.H.I.S., to describe how in more detail.
Relationships that: T-Transcend our natural inclination to focus on self, that H-honor others as we strive to bring out the best in people, where we I-initiate by reaching out beyond ourselves, and where we S-selflessly serve other people. We are made for T.H.I.S.
This past summer I saw all of these relationship elements played out one evening at a family camp in the north woods of Wisconsin. Let me tell you what happened.
We’ve been going each summer to this family camp, Forest Springs, for almost 20 years. I’ll have a link to Forest Springs in the show notes
We have meetings each evening at camp and one night, the executive director’s wife, Karen, got up and told the story of a chance meeting with a woman by the name of Sarah on the way to the dining hall several weeks ago. Karen said I just happened to ask Sarah, “Tell me your story as to why you are here.”
She went on to say,
“I was so taken by Sarah’s story I asked if she would email it to me, which she did later that afternoon. It so captivated me that I thought you would like to hear her story first-hand.”
And with that Sarah walked up on stage to the applause of about 200+ people in the room. She began sharing her story by explaining how important this camp was to her as a kid, and how she and her two siblings grew in their faith in Jesus by coming to camp each summer. It was the highlight of the year for all of them.
She went on to explain that she’s a a single mom with 3 young kids, one of whom is her 7-year-old son, Levi.
She told about Levi’s spina bifida, his constant pain, 17 back operations, and a recent diagnosis of another rare and incurable spinal disease that leaves her son in constant pain. Given that his life expectancy is a short one, she and her 10 year-old son want Levi him to have the same camp experience they had and to grow in his faith in Jesus like they’ve been able to do.
We need to do whatever we have to get him to camp. Made sacrifice with his schedule.
They came to day camp. They were allowed to stay over night given they lived 3½ hours way. Sarah took off work
Sarah went on and on about how meaningful camp was in light of Levy’s illness and the benefit they all received from this camp experience.
- Very emotional presentation by a mom fighting for her son and thanking camp for joining her in that fight.
- Appealed to the family campers to continue supporting the ministry of camp.
- Not a dry eye in the house. So much compassion for this woman
- Half the room of 200+ Adults stood up and applauded when she finished.
- People came up to Sarah afterwards and surrounded her.
What a great story. But for me, it didn’t stop there.
The backstory, and the one that captivated me the most was how the story even got started, with what led up to her sharing her story. It was what Karen did.
It all started with Karen asking Sarah to “Tell me your story.” and then listening to it. So often we ask people to tell us something about them, and we don’t let them finish and we interrupt and tell OUR STORY as it relates to theirs. Not so with Karen.
As a result, those 200+ people in the audience where moved and grew to appreciate the love of this single mom for her disabled son. They grew to . what camp was doing to care for her and her son..
In addition, Sarah was encouraged by the response. When you’re going through a rough time, it really helps when people know what you’re going through, even though there’s not a thing they can do about it.
As a result, the family campers came to realize, or were reminded that because of their support of this camping ministry, they were part of something much bigger than themselves.
And in the end, God was glorified as he saw his children caring for each other
Karen’s question to Sarah, “Tell me your story,” brought me back to a vivid memory of several years back when Janet and I visited friends in England who run a missionary care ministry.
Went to Stratford-on-Avon one day. Visited the Shakespeare museum.
Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets, 118,406 lines, 884,647 words.
9 of these words were chosen to welcome people into the Shakespeare Museum in Stratford-on-Avon, England
“I long to hear the story of your life.” The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1
Of all the words and lines the museum director could have chosen, he chose these 9. They must be very important. Incredible!
Here’s what I learned from this story, and I hope what you learn too. It applies to not just new relationships, but the current ones we have as well.
- In relationships, if we look hard enough, a transcendent pearl of beauty can emerge right before our very eyes. It’s the “T” in T.H.I.S. that we talked bout last week in episode 32
Karen asking Sarah about her story, transcends our inclination to be wrapped up in ourselves, to talk rather than listen.
The invitation to tell her story, transcended Sarah’s normal way of relating by keeping her deepest pain and fear and hope for her son to herself. Her situation is not something we normally relate in initiating with a stranger, like Karen was at the time.
Sarah’s explaining the hope she has for her son in the midst of his unimaginable suffering is the hope found only in Jesus. Her hope and desire for her son transcends her circumstances.
2. In addition to the transcendent aspect of Sarah’s story, there’s two examples of honoring others. The “H” in T.H.I.S.
Karen honoring Sarah by wanting to know her story. It communicates that what I’m going through matters to people. They won’t be able to fix what’s wrong in my life, but wanting to know takes the edge off things. It means I’m not going through life alone. And that’s an honor when people join us on the path we’re assigned to walk down.
Sarah honoring the ministry of Forest Springs and its mission of telling people about Jesus and drawing people to him.
3. Relationships are a lot about observing and being curious about what you see. It’s to inquire about what is happening in front of our eyes. It’s the “I” in T.H.I.S. Karen initiated with Sarah by inquiring “Tell me your story.”
Then she followed up with her story by asking her to email her story to her later in the day. And there’s another “I” in this example, and that is “Inspire.” Karen’s inquiry led to Sarah given the stage to share her story with 200+ adults that night. It was clear, Sarah didn’t want to draw attention to herself, but rather to draw attention to the mission of the camp, and to inspire people to support it and appreciate it because it draws people to Jesus. That was why it was such an emotional prevention that moistened the eyes of most people the room.
4. Finally, there is such selfless-service to this story. It’s the “S” in T.H.I.S.
Karen selflessly initiating with Sarah. There was nothing in it for Karen. For her to draw out Sarah
Karen serving the family campers that night by having Sarah share her inspiring story.
It all focused on pointing people to Jesus.
All in all it’s a great example of You Were Made for T.H.I.S.
I saw first-hand how this incident made Karen come alive. She’s so full of life anyway, but this story filled her joy tank to over flowing. Imagine what can happen to the rest of us living down in the valley, under dark bushes, wrapped up tightly in our blankets of self-focus.
Imagine if we looked for some measure of transcendence in our relationships with people, if we honored people by initiating with them and inquiring into their lives to serve them.
We can all do this, you know. So let’s give it a try!
Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence
It’s amazing what can happen when we simply ask people “Tell me your story.”
Here’s a way you can respond to today’s show
Ask someone, in some form or another, to tell you their story. It can take the form of:
I’d like to know your story. Then, “tell me more.”
I’d like to know how this goes for you. I’m sure your fellow listeners would too. Drop me an email with what happens and I’ll share it on a future episode.
Coming up next week
Our first interview of Season 2 comes up next week. I’ll be interviewing Stacey Brown Randall on the relationship issues when we take other people’s children into our home, raise them, and absorb them into our family.
Relationship quote of the Week
If you really listen to what people say, they will tell you everything. – Rick Rubin
I am so glad you joined us today in this faith community of people who care about transforming their relationships into the best they can be. Who care about showing to the world the character of Jesus through their relationships. I’m so glad you are one of us.
Always remember what you were made for. You were made for
Relationships that: Transcend our natural inclination to focus on self, that Honor others as we strive to bring out the best in people, where we Initiate by reaching out beyond ourselves, and where we selflessly serve other people. We were made for T.H.I.S.
Resources mentioned in today’s show