What's Your Story?: Stress & Growth in Crisis
“Stress is not the enemy in our lives. Paradoxically, it is the key to growth.”
In his book, “The Power of Story,” Jim Loehr suggests that most of us live out of the story that is most central to us, and that curiously that story is oftentimes false. “Oh, you bet, my health and my family are most important to me,” all the while ignoring a current reality of high blood pressure, poor diet, too many hours working and little positive energies for spouse and children. Let’s just say there are far too frequently unexamined gaps or inconsistencies that exist.
Loehr suggests that only a truthful reckoning with “our actual story,” and then making necessary amendments to it, will lead to a life of greater vitality, satisfaction and engagement. Stress is simply a way that we get from here to there. When leveraged honestly and for good purposes, stress is not our enemy. Rather, as is in the quote, “it is the key to growth.” This is especially true when our story has been falsely or poorly focused and needs to be reoriented or renewed.
What is your story? What story are you living? Where is it leading? What story are you lifting up or telling for your congregation? Where or how is it focused? Is it different than it was just a month+ ago?
Kairos focuses upon story. Using a process of listening and discovery, we help leaders more deeply and honestly distill key features of a church’s culture, to better understand “what God is up to among the people.” Further, we reach out into the surrounding community to get a sense of unmet needs and where the church’s mission may intersect their neighbors. Clarity, passion, faith, energy emerge in laying claim to what is oftentimes a new vision, a new way forward. It invites and unleashes growth on many levels.
The stories a congregation lives reveal its DNA. We remember how the deep faith and character of our people had overcome obstacles and risen to challenges in the past, and we anticipate once again that faith and resilience and generosity will lead the way forward into a new, next chapter of life and ministry. There’s something about reaching back into the foundations of a community to find both grounding and a new story in moving forward.
Indeed, our very new and changed reality is causing us to think about the story we’re living, the narrative we speak. No longer able to physically gather with one another do we find our center turned upside down? Is what we’ve said is central no longer possible? At least not for a while? If that’s the case, perhaps we need to reconsider our narrative. To do that is to revisit what’s central about our identity and consider what God is up to in our midst. A worthy task, to be sure.
So, what’s your story? What the story or narrative you’re lifting up for your church? If the storyline is simply one of sort of holding your breath until you’re back together, might you miss some of the central ingredients of our DNA, which are that we are sent people, dispersed ambassadors, empowered disciples, people of the Way, salt, light, leaven, and missionaries who are filled with the Spirit of Christ and the power of the gospel?!
Where’s your focus? What most fully matters? What needs to be let go? Where are you going? What are you doing? Why? What’s God up to?
Sometimes, when things get turned upside down, they are actually getting turned right-side up. At least in some ways. Perhaps that’s a part of what’s happening in this
In this unprecedented time, we are also experiencing unprecedented stress. Yet Jim Loehr suggests that this stress is the “key to our growth.” St. Paul doesn’t flinch either: “…suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Romans 5:3b-4a). You know the rest. Not equals, as such, but the point is mostly the same.
Take time to listen to the deeper stirrings of the Spirit in all of this. Unearth and relish and wade into the hope of God’s faithfulness…always.
It is, after all, for such a time as this that you and I are entrusted with the story—the good news of God’s abiding joy and presence. Even suffering, even stress, can be used by faithful people to be salt and light right now in this time, in the places we find ourselves.
Rev. Tim Johnson | Consultant | Kairos and Associates | firstname.lastname@example.org