My friend, Emily, comes to my house every Wednesday morning. Together we are going through a work book called “Storyline,” which was written by Donald Miller. The purpose of this book is to help you identify negative and positive experiences from your past and figure out how they are either contributing to or holding you back from fully living in the present. The premise is that God has equipped all of us with gifts to help us live our best lives and it is imperative to help others do the same. When I heard about this book I was excited about its possibilities for my life. It is actually more like a movement with a blog and annual conferences. I mentioned it to Emily, and she caught the spark of my enthusiasm and ordered the book as well.
You can work through Storyline in the way that suits you best, either alone or with others. If you decide to partner with someone else, you are taking a step towards self revelation, something that makes many of us feel uneasy, but Emily and I decided that the benefits of sharing our lives would outweigh the risks, so we committed to our weekly meetings and are open to being joined by others. We decided that exploring these principles in community is the best way to make the life changes we are seeking. Both of us are open people with a lot of life experience under our belt. Part of our motivation is to share our stories with others, in the hopes they can avoid some of the errors we have made. Emily has even taken fledging steps to writing a book, something she has been wanting to do for a very long time, which makes me feel that our collaboration has been a success, and I am so grateful for any small part I may have played in this process, because I have always wanted to invest myself in the lives of others. Isn’t that what we all crave…something larger than ourselves, something to elevate us above our present circumstances and shine our light in the dark places?
So far Emily and I have only met three times, but we are commited to keeping the momentum going. We dutifully sit at my dining room table, books in hand along with writing tablets, and we talk for hours. Some of what Emily has shared, I will never reveal, although she may choose to do so just as she has done with me, but that will be her decision.
Each of us has read the book and completed the suggested assignments prior to meeting together. We have meant to go through the book together as well, but, for now, the need to share our lives seems to overshadow our doing that. Still we are abiding by it’s intent. We are becoming vulnerable with ourselves and with each other. We both want to experience change after decades of stagnation, so we chip away at the walls and barriers we have erected to keep the darkness contained without realizing that instead we were keeping the light from coming in.
Emily tells me she has taken reams of notes, and it is helping her sort out her emotions. The physical analogy would be something like ridding your arteries of plaque or wiping away the corrosion that builds over time caused by wind and rain and all the elements of nature. I have been divorced for a long time, and Emily has been married for many years. I have never met her husband, since Emily is a new friend, but she tells me that her needs for an emotional connection are greater than his capacity to give, and for so long , she has persistently tried to form a more intimate connection with a man who would, likely, give her what she needs if he only could. It’s not that he hasn’t tried, yet it appears that he is a prisoner of his own limitations and Emily has been locked in the cell with him, but now she is determined to reach for freedom from that empty place, even if he must remain.
My friend has likened her relationship to trying to draw water from an empty well, and though she has wished fervently, the well remains dry. This struck a chord with me and I saw a picture of myself kneeling before an empty well, cup in hand, desperately trying to scoop up a few droplets to ease the dryness of my soul. No wonder Emily feels so comfortable sharing this narrative with me. She knows I understand how scarce her water supply has been, because I have been in that same dry place.
Yesterday I stumbled upon Oprah’s “Life Class” on TV, something I never watch. Yet I feel it was not an accident. The show was about relationship restoration, and Pastor T.D. Jakes, was trying to help families reconcile. he said sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that people will not always meet our needs in the way we want them to, and we will just have to accept those limitations. He gave the analogy that some of us have ten gallon jugs to fill, and we are bringing them to people who only have a pint to spare. How many times have I toted that ten gallon jug and held it out with expectation before the pint-bearers? More times than I care to remember.
Jesus says those who drink the living water from His well will never thirst again…that He is the only One who can supply us with life sustaining water and that he keeps our tears in a bottle,…sounds like we can bring our ten-gallon jugs to Him, and there will be an abundant water supply for Emily and me and everyone else who is longing to be filled.