I was sweaty, rushing and late.
I was racing to get to a speaking engagement at a local college campus that had invited me to share my story. Originally, I made the commitment to speak on a day when the birds were chirping, I felt rested, and had just come from spending quiet time at the beach. Upon receiving the speaker request, I immediately accepted and thought, “God, you are so good.”
Fast-forward to the day I needed to deliver my talk — I was late leaving an afternoon appointment, I needed to get home to change, and, as if things could not get more hectic, my host emailed to say parking may be difficult and I should consider using Uber.
Twenty minutes later, I slid into the backseat of my Uber. I had my headphones, keys, wallet and a copy of my book, “Redeemed: The Power of a Single Story.” What I did not have were my speaking notes. I had left them on the table. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and tried to calm the frustration and anxiety I could feel creeping into my chest. Suddenly, I felt the car stop. We were picking up an additional passenger. I had accidentally chosen the shared ride option. I wondered why this was happening to me. I considered getting out of the car to reserve a new Uber but realized that would not save me much time. Instead, I put on my headphones and tried not to make eye contact with my fellow riders.
One of the passengers noticed my book on the seat and began asking me questions. Presented before me was an incredible opportunity to share my story, but I was too focused on where I was going instead of engaging the moment God had provided. Fortunately, the rider was persistent and my resistance lowered.
“You wrote a book?” the rider asked.
“I did,” I responded.
“What’s it about?” the rider continued.
“I wrote a book about my personal traumas,” I said.
“Do you mind if I ask what they were about?” the rider asked.
I answered, “I discuss lots of things but specifically about sexual assault, having an abortion, and the effects of racism on my identity — in no specific order.”
The Uber driver turned off the radio.
For the next 15 minutes, I had the opportunity to share my story about how I love a God who made me feel completely loved and whole in the midst of my worst pain. If Jesus did this for me, He would do it for all of us.
God wastes nothing. Our stories are bridge builders. Every time we share our stories, we extend a bridge for someone to cross in search of the kingdom of heaven. Our stories are so valuable to God. We can shift the atmosphere with our stories.
Whenever I am writing a story, I imagine that each line is a stitch in what will eventually be a beautifully woven blanket of complexity, pain, love and triumph. Each stitch is a story of something we have celebrated, grieved or overcome with God central to our joy, healing and rescue.
Here is Jesus’ commission to us in Matthew 28:18–20. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Each of us is called to teach others what we have learned to obey. We are commanded.
All of our stories begin the same — we are born. Yet the power in our story is how we have chosen to live and God’s undying and resolute confidence that His love will save us and return us to Him. When we share our stories, we offer the keys to our hearts unlocking the kingdom of heaven here on earth. By operating out of love, having a willingness to share our stories, and encouraging others, we build Christ’s culture in a world thirsty for His love.
There are times when I do not want to share. I feel too vulnerable. I get nervous. But Jesus made His command easy for us. He lives in our stories. Every single moment of our lives, God is with us. The Holy Spirit gives us exactly what we need to share courageously with conviction.
The Bible uses a collection of stories woven together for the purpose of transforming lives. Reading stories about Moses, David, Rahab, Deborah, Jesus, Peter and the disciples have brought heaven to earth. One of my favorite stories is in Acts 4. Peter and John were out doing what they always did — watching an incredible movement of the Holy Spirit as people believed in Christ after listening to their stories of what Jesus had done in their lives.
Acts 4:31 says, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
The Ripple Effect
Sometimes we wonder, “How can my story change anyone?”
Have you ever noticed how even the smallest object dropped into a body of water causes ripples? Each time Peter and John shared, they caused a ripple effect.
Our stories have the power of the ripple effect. If you drop an object into water, you get a ripple.
From the initial drop, countless ripples follow spreading further and wider from a single drop.
Recently, I learned in economics the term ripple effect describes something that multiplies.
Our stories are the objects that cause a ripple effect. The power of the Holy Spirit in our stories can take a single story from our lives and multiply it into the hearts of people to know Jesus. Written stories remain long after we are gone with the power to influence others. When we open our hearts to share for the good of others, we multiply God’s love here on earth.
The first century church saw a great movement of the Holy Spirit as ordinary people were brave enough to share their stories. Sometimes we feel ill-equipped to serve God, but we have our stories! Our stories bring healing into the world. Storytelling, preaching and teaching offer the hope of transformation through Christ.
The question moves from if we should tell our stories to how do we tell our stories? How do we begin the ripple effect?
First, we must consider our driving motivations. Peter and John were passionate and sparked by love. Movements of today are often sparked and fueled by rage. Too often to make changes in our lives, we wait until we are sick and tired, which makes sense when we are hurting. However, anger and fatigue are symptoms of our hurting world. In order to see heaven on earth, we cannot begin a ripple effect with anger. We must effect change through love.
Modern-day heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa, while enraged by injustice, were able to make and multiply change through love. Sharing our stories of God’s love is a reminder to the world that we can overcome pain because love — not anger — will heal us. God’s love is the prescription to heal every hurt.
We live in a world fueled by rage, but what if God is calling us to take our pain and experiences and harness them to His redeeming love? We find healing and power when we surrender to Jesus. As we are restored, we see God’s love in our stories. We must use our stories to create a multiplying ripple effect of love in the world.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I have had by far more amazing stories of goodness and joy than I have of sadness or trauma. Yet, for years, I was quietly angry. I was more angry than I was prepared to love. Rage simmers for a long time before coming to a boil. We must continuously check our hearts and our motives.
The world is going to threaten us with hurt and pain. We will be invited to conform to the pattern of rage. However, prayer is our peace. In prayer, we have the opportunity to both speak to and listen to God. In prayer, we are re-centered to the purpose for which we are called — to make disciples. In prayer, love covers rage, and our mind is renewed.
In Acts 4:29–30, Peter and John refused to conform to the ways of injustice the world offered. They prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Through prayer and a surrendered heart, our mind is renewed. With a mindset conformed to Christ, we can offer our stories of peace that will make the ground shake. In Christ, everything changes. As believers, we have experienced transformation, and there are people who need our stories to bring peace and love to their rage. We cannot hold back our stories, or wait for another opportunity to share. We must be urgent and ask the Holy Spirit for courage, anointing and power.
Every single person has a story. Every story is valuable. Our collective stories of living with anxiety, infertility, abortion, divorce, reconciliation, grief, loss, weight loss, or overcoming debt are all valuable experiences in which Jesus showed us grace and mercy. Our stories offer how Jesus relieves rage and revives love. When we share our stories, people can see not only themselves in us, but they see the hope of our Savior.
Our stories are an example of what happens when we lower the rage and increase in love. When we open our hearts, we extend the fellowship of Christ that is available to all of us in every circumstance — therefore, building the kingdom of God. This is the ripple effect.
Steps to Share
There are steps we can take to become people who share our hearts in an effort to unlock heaven for others. We must read Scripture and be inspired by the stories of those like Peter and John. We must recognize that, in our ordinary normal lives, we are actually extraordinary. We must accept that our everyday stories are the stories people need to hear.
We must believe that God can use us and believe this without condition. Belief without condition is faith. Even when our faith is small, our faith is powerful. We must live and operate out of the knowledge that we are made in the image of God and, with our lives, we will make ripples in the places that water needs to be stirred. The day we believe in our stories and what Jesus has done in us, we have the power to change the lives of others.
We can prepare for God to use our story by sinking into Him. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Sinking might feel synonymous with drowning. However, sinking into Jesus means we can truly breathe for the first time. Our stories offer light and breath to others.
We are not responsible to change hearts because only God can do that in a surrendered person. Nevertheless, we must be committed to offering love. Today, let us commit to sharing our heart with someone. Imagine sharing how we endured hurt and pain in the loving arms of Jesus. We must speak from our stories as our experiences speak of empathy, connection, love and authenticity. This process unlocks our hearts and invites heaven to earth.
Today, may we be challenged in prayer to ask God to give us courage and boldness. May God place someone on our hearts and give us opportunities to encounter people who need to hear our stories.
Be a ripple maker.
Watch the ground shake.
Kristy Hinds is the assistant superintendent of ministry development for the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. Visit fmchr.ch/Redeemed to order her book, “Redeemed: The Power of a Single Story.”