It’s been just over five years now since my therapist suggested I attend The Story Workshop. At the time I had no idea that those four days would impact the entire arc of my life. Even today I am still living into the beauty and pain that was awakened in me and my story.
I was a pastor at a large church in Texas from 2001-2008. I was only twenty-two years old when I was brought on staff. While I had trained in seminary for the various tasks of pastoral ministry, no one prepared me for the rigorous pace and the congregation’s ever-watching eyes.
To be so young and trying to figure out things like dating, friendship, and heartache in front of thousands was a task I struggled through. So I played the game and put on a smile, losing myself in the stories of others while still too afraid to sit with the pain of my own.
I became a caretaker so much so that I was putting my own personal needs secondary. Years passed and the church grew—along with my depression. My own soul was crying out for nourishment. This is what drove me to therapy.
In my eighth month of therapy I revealed to my therapist a deep childhood wound I had not shared with a soul. I feared rejection and judgment but she met me with grace and kindness. I was still hesitant to revisit the topic, but a few weeks later my therapist suggested I attend The Story Workshop at The Allender Center at The Seattle School. I agreed to attend, but had no idea what was in store for me.
I arrived in Seattle with my best friend Jorge, excited for the days ahead. It was within the first few moments of Dan’s teaching that his words hit home. “If you don’t like the life you’re living you can change it,” he said. “Pick up the pen and, with God, begin to write a new story.”
This resonated deep with me. With these words, I felt empowered. But before I could make edits to my current story, I needed to understand my past—the entire story leading up to now.
When our breakout group met, the leader shared their prepared story first. They too were willing to go into wounded places. This set the tone for the workshop and I realized that though I was ashamed of my deep wound, I hadn’t sought healing; over time the wound had become safe and familiar. Now God invited me to be more courageous and take a risk to experience healing.
But that’s the scary part, isn’t it? I wondered: would I be met with grace and kindness? I was scared to share because I had not yet learned the thought task of being kind to these harmed parts of me. Instead, I thought others would join me in my internal judgment and rejection.
As I shared my story, my gaze fell to the floor while tears of shame ran down my face. The leader asked if I could look up and see the faces in the room. I could not do it.
“What do you think you would see on our faces?” he asked.
“Compassion,” I replied.
“And you can’t look at our faces to receive that?” he responded.
I took a deep breath and peeked ever so quickly at the faces in the room. It was too much goodness to take in. I was seen in my darkest place of shame and was received, not rejected. This is where I needed the group: their faces and their care.
Our group bonded with laughter and tears. We shared in communion on our final day. It was then that I decided I would make a bold move for my story, leave Texas, and attend The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology to pursue an M.A. in Counseling Psychology.
I wish my story had a tidy ending. Great pain has accompanied this journey of awareness. But it’s those moments of beautiful clarity that make the process worth it.
The Story Workshop created the space for me to more fully know my story and enter into its complexity. Whether it’s something in your past that you need help processing or a deep pain or wound that needs to be addressed, there is space for you there. And the space you create to know your story will be the space where grace can enter.