Jesus Followers Rewrite Stories of Past Pain

CrossOver reflection for Week 50 • Beginning November 17, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 11

Rev. Jenny Smith


I glanced down at my phone with shaky hands. I found the door code in a text and punched it into the keypad. The door clicked open and I stepped cautiously inside a home turned therapist’s office. As I sat nervously on her couch, I fidgeted with my keys and water, honestly wishing I could head right out the door I just entered. 

But no. I was brave when I made the appointment and I would try to summon that courage again. It was time. So for the next hour, I talked through my feelings and pain from a previous season of life. I cycled through a variety of emotions and my therapist made it feel safe to get curious about them. Turns out they had a lot to tell me when I was ready to listen. And somehow in the listening and noticing, I felt healing rise up. What had previously been a hazy knot of fear was now a pile of loose ropes on the ground that I could gently clear away. 

I went into my fear, lived to tell about it and came out the other side with a little more love, compassion, and joy. That knot of fear, left unexamined, had created all kinds of havoc in my life. I was harsh to myself and others because I didn’t have a language for the pain inside my past. But when brought out into the light, the fear got its turn to speak, and then I understood. The harshness faded. Bringing my pain and fear to Jesus (and a therapist!) enabled me to shift from a spirit of anger to a spirit of reconciliation.

In chapter 11 of “We Make the Road By Walking,” Brian McLaren wonders, 

“How will we tell the stories of our past in ways that make our future less violent? We must not defend those stories or give them the final word. Nor can we cover them up, hiding them like a loaded gun in a drawer that can be found and used to harm. Instead, we must expose these violent stories to the light of day. And then we must tell new stories beside them, stories so beautiful and good that they will turn us toward a better vision of kindness, reconciliation, and peace for our future and for our children’s future.”

We do this work in many ways. We’re invited to explore the stories in our own past that hold pain and anger for us. As we explore and heal, we can write new stories about past pain. 

We’re invited to name past pain inside our faith communities. Left unexamined, these traumas continue for generations. We can give an incredible gift of healing and reconciliation by naming and working through misunderstandings and conflict. We can write new stories for new generations of Jesus followers.

We’re invited to tell the truth about painful realities in our cities, country, and world. We all cope with difficult news headlines differently, but maybe you’re a bit like me, and just want to put your head in the sand some days and ignore it all. Once in a while, that may be a healthy thing to do. But we are Jesus followers. We’re invited to look right into the face of hate, anger, and violence and tell a different story. We can write new stories of goodness, peace, and kindness. 

Our world is depending on it.


Rev. Jenny Smith serves as pastor to Marysville United Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest Conference. You can find more of her writing on her blog.

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