What Taylor Swift taught me about telling my story
When my littles are getting fussy and whiney and all the snacks in the world aren’t cutting it, we blast Taylor Swift and “Shake it Off.” We dance crazily around the living room and I swing kids in circles until they dizzily fall over and ask for more. Our moves are silly, without the self-consciousness that I remember having in all those high school dances. We stomp, laugh, and clap and my boys do karate moves or spy moves or whatever they’re into at the moment.
We dance out all of the big feelings for which we don’t have any more words left.
We let the music and our bodies move in sweeping rhythms that restore who we are: a family who loves being together. Our dance parties are just one scene from our family story that I hope my kids remember. I hope they remember the fun and the laughter and the joy, and, that as they dance they know they are loved no matter how they perform.
I read something the other day about theology being the “song of redemption.” It’s a beautiful phrase. That theology (the knowledge we think of as dry and dusty and perhaps not really worth getting all that upset about) is actually another avenue for singing. That what we believe about God, life, and this world is best sung about – whether we’re rejoicing or lamenting or just plain confused about the lyrics.
Knowledge of God is a tune; it’s part of our heart language; it gets our feet tapping and our hips swaying to the beat. It’s a response, that, like a dance party, is part of who we are, part of our story.
What is this story and why might it matter as we tell our own brave stories?
The story of the gospel is a radical outpouring of grace to those who don’t deserve it. Grace for the rule-follower and prostitute; the perfectionist and the invalid; the powerful and the weak. It can only be grace that is no respecter of persons, that has the power to upend our hierarchies and feeble attempts we use to grasp at significance.
The story of the gospel tells us that we are all – Christian or not – reflectors of the glory of God.
We’re all image-bearers.
And this has tremendous implications for us as we tell our own stories.
It means that we all reflect a tiny portion of what God is all about. It means our stories are not too racy or horrible or ever past redemption. It means the story of the gospel is big and wide enough and crazy enough for your story to be included in it.
The story of the gospel gives us hope to tell our stories – our real stories, the scary brave ones.
Why should you tell your story when there are so many voices already clamoring to be heard?
Why might your story make a difference?
I think we tell our stories to reflect the image of God. We tell our stories because, like God, we are creators. We tell our stories because we have to — because it brings someone out of darkness and creates community over our shared frail humanity.
Your story might not be that exciting. It might be full of hurt and pain. It might seem rather mundane.
But it’s still special.
Because only you can tell your story.
When we start to tell our stories we create sympathy and connection, and that’s really what makes living on this spinning planet joyful.
So tell your story.
Tell it boldly.
Use faltering, frail words to make meaning of your mundane.
From the dance parties to depression to hope amidst laundry piles, I want to help you tell your story. To do this I’m giving away my e-book about The Power of Story and How to Tell Yours. I hope you’ll read it. You can find me over at Circling the Story.
I’ll be waiting to hear your stories.
Ashley Hales writes at Circling the Story where she helps others to write their stories bravely. She’s a mama to 4 littles, married to her pastor husband, and has a Ph.D. in English. She loves books, pearls and polka dots, and a cup of good Scottish tea. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.