I hope you had the chance to hear Dr. Jim Vaszauskas this past weekend as he shared his story. As many know, Dr. V has served as the Mansfield ISD Superintendent since 2013. If you did not get the chance to hear that, I would encourage you to do so by clicking here.
I was deeply grateful for his willingness to share. Having heard his story before, I knew it would be a blessing to our congregation. I also appreciated that the way he told his story was an expression of a starting point for the many who have asked me an important question in recent weeks:
Where do I begin in learning my own story?
Dr. V framed his story around the significant learnings received at significant places and in the context of significant relationships during some of the most significant moments in his life.
I know that thinking through the entirety of our stories is a daunting task, but when you begin thinking about your story in this way, my experience has been that our stories quickly become more clear.
We see this practice lived out in many individuals whose stories we find in the Old Testament. They mark the significant moments of this life by building an altar as an ongoing reminder of how they experienced God at a particular place and at a particular time.
When Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, has an experience of God for the first time, we find this in Genesis 28:16-17,
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
If you have been inspired in recent weeks to better understand your own story, let me suggest following these examples and start by identifying ‘the altars’ in your own story.
Here are just a few suggestions I would offer.
- First, think about the key moments, learnings, seasons, and relationships in your life. Organize these in a chronological way as the start of a timeline of your story.
- As you identify these, ask yourself these questions about these significant moments:
What did I learn about God?
What did I learn about myself?
What did I learn about my relationship with God?
How was I shaped? How did I change?
What growth was sparked as a result of this part of my story?
- Take the time to write down a sentence or a paragraph that describes the importance of what you have identified on this timeline.
Let me add one final thing I think is vitally important in your reflection.
Do not skip past those exceedingly difficult, challenging, and perhaps even heartbreaking moments you have experienced.
For many, these have been some of our most formative experiences. Looking back we may see that the way these moments shaped us were not always positive, but they are nonetheless a significant part of our stories.
This is not easy work, but it is work that is incredibly valuable. I hope by now you already know why I think it is worthy of our effort, but just in case you don’t, let me remind you again.