The day the Story Workshop began I found myself meandering around Seattle. After driving around awhile I parked, located Mars Hill Graduate School, and just started exploring the area for a couple of hours. Went to the harbor (where I was almost hit by metal debris that flew off the roof of the harbor building), saw the Kwik-E Mart and began to explore Pike Place Market. Still, it was just buying my time till the workshop started.
There were only thirty-six of us there so it made for an intimate atmosphere. A sense of community. While there were a number of people who were from the area, there were people from Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri and other places. We were stationed around six tables that formed a half-circle that focused in on a lecturn that Dan Allender would use over the next few days. As he started in I was teetering emotionally on the edge. I’ve tried to explain why in the previous posts, but still it seemed hard for me to comprehend why various snippets of truth and story had me on the verge of tears.
Dan was clear on what the workshop was about. My expectations of what it would be were not completely in line with what it was, but nevertheless I was still sure of me needing to be there. Yes, there would be writing, but not as much as I thought there would be. More so, it would be an understanding of what you are writing about, a deeper understanding of your stories. Why you composed the stories the way you did. As Dan said, “If you step into your story with honesty and hope and openness, you are going to be on a wild ride these next four days”.
Before you arrived at the workshop we were asked to send in the five most impacting events of our life and to write a story about one of them. The events came fairly quickly to mind and I put together fairly quickly a story about the number one event on the list, my parent’s divorce. While I knew what I wrote wasn’t award-winning material, I was quite confident that it would be received well.
After the first session we split up into small groups. When I saw my group I was excited because they were mostly in my age range and seemed like a cool crew. Plus, my leader would be Lisa McCann who did all the critiques on the stories that were sent in beforehand. I liked the idea of her being my leader since I could follow-up with her on whatever critiques she made. I started chatting some of the group up as we headed to where we’d meet. I’d put my stuff down and was getting settled in when I was called out to the hallway by Lisa. She wanted me to switch to another group. This really bummed me out because in the four minutes I was in that group I was already excited about the possibilities and potential. She asked if I wouldn’t mind and I responded with a half-hearted “You know the dynamics better than I do. If you think it’s best then I’ll do it.” I was switched. This new group was all older than me. The average age was probably fifteen years older than me. I was downcast and wondering why God would do this. Trust? Yeah, it was somewhere in there, but understanding was not quickly following this trust.
The group started and I was quiet. Our small group leader was also a licensed counselor. All the small group leaders were licensed counselors. This seemed odd at the time. What kind of workshop was this? Not only that, but the dynamics were unlike any small group I’d been a part of before. There were seven of us, including the leader (Kay), and only two of us were men. Mostly women and all older than me, this was not my ideal small group community for the weekend.
When the group started we were all sitting on basic padded chairs in a circle. We had windows in our room, thankfully. We went around and introduced ourselves and had five minutes to provide any insight or info about ourselves. For some reason, just listening to everyone’s basic introduction had me on the verge of crying. Why? Don’t know. I was the last to go. I just threw myself into it. Nothing was making sense with the trip so I jumped into the void. After doing the usual assortment of name, age, home, etc., I started sharing about why I was there. It was then I couldn’t hold back the tears in front of everyone anymore. I did manage to compose myself quickly, but I was fragile. I figured there was no reason to play it safe considering what I was “betting on”. I went all-in with God, officially, at that first small group. (If I hadn’t already considering I was in Seattle…)
The group then transitioned with Kay sharing her story, a story similar to what we had written and submitted early on. It was a story of one of the most impacting events of her life. Wow. I was in for a roller coaster of emotions. We were encouraged by Dan, beforehand, to give feeback to the story. I didn’t even know what to say. I was envisioning what my own reaction was going to be when I read my story to the group. I was thinking of my own family members when I heard her story. I was thinking of why God had me there.
We broke for dinner and I ended up at a deli, in Pike Place Market, with a pastor who was attending the workshop. We ate, talked but more importantly we read our critiques on our stories. What was I expecting? Not to be slaughtered and feel like I failed. However, in reading all the critiques there was no questioning one thing, Lisa was spot on with her commentary. I had not engaged my story but rather written a disengaged overview that glossed over the pain of the most traumatic experience of my life. And, I would be sharing this story the next day in small group. Great. I felt like crap.
We had an evening session and Dan’s teachings were food and honey to my soul. It kept me going in the face of what seemed like an encroaching end. This session helped me to begin to engage the story I had written, and would subsequently help me engage other stories I’d write and other stories I’d hear from others. As Dan said, we don’t have to be locked into the story we wrote. We could edit it. And edit I would. That night and the next morning.
The session ended and I headed back to the hotel in the green Toyota Prius I had rented. Day one had ended and no major revelations of God. No clarity. No direction. No nothing. Damn, what was I doing? Yeah, Dan’s teaching was phenomenal like always, but would that be it?
Three days of the workshop left.
Some Dan Allender quotes from the day:
To the degree you love/hate your story you love/hate God.
How you engage your enemies is how close you can be with God.
You can use the truth to escape the truth.
Most people don’t worship but manage God.
We pile on shame to avoid a greater shame.
Even God takes (certain types of) fury as worship.