By Chris Bates
Let your story help others
That night on the mountain was during my fifth summer at the Christian camp I went to growing up. I had finally achieved the opportunity to take my Little Chief tests after years of working toward that rank. The final step of the test was to hike up the nearby mountain and spend the night alone, with only a very basic kit of needs. It was a clear, waterproof bag that contained only two matches, a Snickers bar, small tarp, roll of twine, small flashlight, knife and a small Bible.
I was a nervous and scared young teenager, and one of my only comforts was in knowing that the few others who also made it to the final test would be nearby on the same mountainside.
What we were not told in advance is that night, each of us would be provided a guide who was an older, multi-year experienced Little Chief. My guide not only helped to lead me up the mountainside, but he also made sure I was able to find a good camping spot. Before leaving me, he advised me on tips for building a lasting and safe campfire, how to make shelter with the twine and tarp and then showed a roll of reflective flagging to me.
To my surprise and comfort, he said that on his way down he would be marking his trail every few feet with the flagging, and that if I needed to give up the test during the night, all that I had to do was follow that trail down to safety. Lastly, he briefly told me his story about his years of building toward the tests, how he had succeeded, and all he had learned about his own walk with Christ. I was then left to endure the night on my own, but my fears were mostly replaced with a deep confidence that I could achieve the same things.
Recognize your opportunities
Every story not only has meaning, but significance, and yours is no different. No, that does not mean that each of us is supposed to go out and speak before the masses. We are built uniquely with certain God-given talents and skills, and it is the combination of those that make each of us as unique as a fingerprint. “Be alert!” as it tells us in 1 Peter 5:8. You just never know how God is going to use you for His plan!
Most of us don’t know much about the story of Ananias, even if we’ve heard the name from the New Testament. Ananias is a minor biblical figure and only appears in Acts, for discussion purposes. To summarize Acts 9:10-18, Ananias was a disciple whom the Lord came to in a vision, and gave him direction to go see Saul and restore his sight. Saul was famous for persecuting Christians, so Ananias told God that he was scared. Ananias then went and placed his hands on Saul to cure his blindness.
That one action Ananias faithfully took had such a profound impact for Christ across the world. Saul, who later (in Acts 13) comes to be called Paul, then discipled to the world and wrote much of the New Testament. Those are very big deals and were made possible because Ananias listened to God and took that one action (with lots of faith).
Can you be a real disciple, too? Is that part of your story? Your story makes you highly qualified. It could be the God-given skill sets you use in your career that could guide another to their own successes. Maybe a divorce gives you the experience a friend will need to help survive after one of his or her own. Maybe addiction leads you to recovery, which then lets you pass the message to others. Can your chronic illness let you meet another who has the same malady, where you are then able to comfort them? For our own stories of discipleship with others to happen, though, we have to be in relationship. God built us in His image to relate to one another.
Carry your story to others
“The truth is that you and I are wired by God with an instinct to be in authentic relationships so we don’t have to go it alone” says Patrick Morley in “Man Alive”. What is a relationship to you? Whether about friendships, dating, family members, coworkers or even marriage, pause to ask yourself: what does it look like for me to share my story and disciple to others? Whatever the answer, actively seek that for yourself in relationships. More importantly seek to be that for others in relationships. If you give it, it will find you in return.
You see, I was able to pass the Little Chieftest despite my fears, but it was largely because my guide had shared his experience and his story, and I believed that I could follow the same path to success. His personal story made my achievement possible and it helped to shape my life. By being willing to be in relationship with me, his truth gave me hope that I could succeed, too.
I’ve heard many times that the Bible is a giant storybook. Not only is the story ongoing, but I believe that you and I are each an important part of it. You may have that one thing to do, like Ananias, that sparks a process to follow, but you must be willing and ready. It makes perfect sense that you are to share your experience, strength and hope to give others comfort as they face their own tests.
Your story is your truth. May you use that truth to its fullest and be the disciple that He means for you to be!
Chris is president and founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.