Your Story Matters

I had one prominent thought floating through my head as I prepared for my latest speech: they picked the wrong girl.

Saul and I were getting ready to share our story at the Cleveland Women’s Leadership Symposium. We felt like royalty– a nice hotel, fancy restaurants, a gift bag of goodies. But as I woke up early to run through my breast cancer speech one more time, I felt like I was wearing a crown I didn’t deserve.

I was going to step onto a platform and deliver words of hope and encouragement to an audience who had probably looked meaner forms of cancer in the face. What value could my story possibly have? I didn’t even have chemo… I cheated cancer. I got out early. It should be someone else up there speaking about how to be brave.

I let those thoughts float around in my head for a few minutes while I continued to lie in bed. Then I rolled over and grabbed my phone. I opened the Bible app and read what popped up on the screen, Galatians 5:22-23. Here is what it said:

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

I don’t know if you know this about me, but when my thoughts start running away, I immediately start reciting a biblical grocery list. I start listing the Fruit of the Spirit. Those are the qualities that begin to blossom in you when you truly claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior. There are nine of them and I could say them in my sleep. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

As I read the words from Galatians on my phone, I started thinking it was sounding awfully familiar. And then it dawned on me. Those are the Fruits of the Spirit! I just hadn’t memorized them in that particular translation of the Bible. Look again:

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others (LOVE), exuberance about life (JOY), serenity (PEACE). We develop a willingness to stick with things (PATIENCE), a sense of compassion in the heart (KINDNESS), and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people (GOODNESS). We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments (FAITHFULNESS), not needing to force our way in life (GENTLENESS), able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (SELF-CONTROL).”

In that moment, it dawned on me. The hope and encouragement will be the same, whether it’s me speaking or someone who nearly died from cancer. The value of my words is that they are different than other people’s words.

Each of us walks around with stories to tell and lessons to share. Your story be more or less dramatic than someone else’s. The person listening may have heard a thousand similar tales, but it doesn’t matter. When you open your heart to share, what comes out of your mouth may be just the translation that cuts to the heart of the person who needs your message the most.

You’re going to meet someone today who could use an encouraging story — YOUR encouraging story, in YOUR particular voice. I hope you’ll share.

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