There's always been something about story.
I was that child with the flashlight under the covers, feverishly reading the words as quickly as possible before my parents inevitably found me. When the flashlight was taken away, I would press myself up against the wall by the door, holding the book just so, the stream of light from the hallway resting perfectly at my place on the page.
I fell asleep with books in hand, stacked them high on shelves, stowed them in bags. I lived for the library and dreamed of one day having one of my own like in "Beauty & the Beast." Books stacked on shelves reaching as high as the ceiling, with multiple stories, ladders strewn throughout.
If I wasn’t reading stories, I was making them up. With my paper dolls, with my McDonald’s toys, with my Polly Pockets. Backstory, family history, accents, and siblings. I imagined it all.
Stories intrigue, captivate, enrapture me. They always have. They always will. Fictional stories, factual stories, your story, my...story.
Well, maybe not my story.
There’s a beautiful question I once saw posed.
Who were you before the world told you who you needed to be?
I’ve been in a season of refining, of letting many things lay fallow, of sorting through and throwing out and redefining. Officially, I only have two commitments at the moment. I’m figuring out more about who I am apart from who I think I should or need to be — the real, most authentic me, the one God intended as He delicately formed me, piece by piece, in my mother’s womb.
As I’ve been sifting through the last several years, I’m beginning to identify some of those things that creep in because of shoulds and coulds. Some of those things, many of those things, are not bad things outright. But they distract. They claw for attention.
We often forget that when we say yes to one thing, we have to say no to something else.
This season has looked a lot like stepping back, laying all my yeses and nos out on the table, lining them up, and choosing which ones I want to keep and which ones I want to throw away. Which yeses should remain yeses, which nos should remain nos, and which answers need to change.
My writing was a yes for a long time and it got turned into a no because of a lot of other yeses. This season has reminded me that my writing, the sharing of my story with the world, must always be a yes for me. That’s how I was made, an essential part of Sarah that has been there since birth.
So in this season, I’m slowly saying yes and no to other things, but I know my writing is something I must always make space to say yes to.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun pondering another question.
What story did you need to share before the world told you what you should say?
This, in part, is why my ground has lain fallow, why my words have been few, and the stories I’ve shared sparse. I was sharing words and sharing stories but I didn’t know if they were the words and stories I needed to share or if they were the words and stories I was told I should share.
Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
This goes for people who don’t write at all and for those who write what they should write, rather than what they need to write.
I haven't always been confident that my story needed to be shared with the world.
Yes, I love reading stories written by other people about other people. I enjoy fictional and factual stories, stories about my friends and family, stories about superheroes and knights in shining armor, stories of any and every kind. But I struggled to believe that my story was important, too. That my story was valuable and necessary and could change the world.
So I wrote a lot of what I thought I should write and not always what I wanted to write — or needed to write. And there were moments when I felt the tension between what I felt like I was supposed to write about because it would be popular or get views or garner interest and the things and parts of my story I actually wanted to share with the world.
I’ve always wanted to share stories, but I don’t ever want to share a story I should share. I only want to share the story I need to share. The story I would share if I had no fear of shame, misunderstanding, or backlash. The story I would share if I felt fully loved, secure, and known at all times in all ways. The story I would share if I knew I would physically, not just mentally, burst if I didn’t share it.
I don’t quite know what that whole story is yet, but I’m identifying some of the pieces.
It’s the story of a girl who loves stories, of a girl who loves life and people and laughter, who loves deeply, without reserve or hesitation. It’s the story of a girl who has been injured by people and institutions, who never wants another person to experience the kind of pain she's experienced, but never wants that to become the focus of her life. It’s the story of a girl who desires deeply to bring glory to her Savior. It’s the story of a girl who loves big sunglasses, painted toenails, big red strawberries, and floppy straw hats, who loves kitchen dance parties, long dinners around the table, and deep relationships. It’s the story of a girl who is learning where she wants to be, even if that isn’t where she is now.
It’s gonna be a good story, however it unfolds, whatever it ends up being. I can feel it in my bones.
Now I want to hear from you! How would you answer this question?
Photo by Holly Elizabeth Photography.