When we officially moved to South Carolina in 2012 I noticed that something changed about my life right away. I found that the number of times I sat across the table from someone just to “get together” increased by about 100%.
At least 2-3 times a week I was grabbing lunch with someone from church. Every weekend our friends came over and we sat on the porch with a cigar and talked. And what did we talk about? We told stories.
I found that people here love to tell stories. Sometimes it’s almost competitive. A subject comes up, everyone shares a story, each one getting more fascinating than the last. But there’s a good question that comes with this practice - do we know how to tell our most important stories?
I met this gentleman the other day. His name is Paige. He was handing out menus for a food service called City on the Hill. Basically, a lady rents out a storefront, cooks food and delivers it. Just call 2 hours in advance and she’ll hook you up.
I mentioned to Paige that I could have a church event coming up that needed some catering. He said, “You believe in Christ?” And we started a fascinating conversation.
He looked at me very seriously and said, “Man, God is doing stuff all around us. But most people don’t know how to talk about it.”
He continued on and asked me if I remember how Moses talked with a burning bush. Pointing at some folks standing near us, he asked me if I saw a burning bush today, would I be able to go up to these people and talk about it? I didn’t really have an answer, but I quickly gathered that his passion was helping people articulate their experiences with Christ to both believers and non-believers. In fact, that’s what his food business was all about - making enough money to publish a magazine full of testimonies.
He showed me a note on the back of the menus he was passing out. Here are excerpts from that note:
"We ask the same question to you believers that God asked in Ezekiel 37:1-4, “Can these bones live again?” As a witness of God’s glory and supremacy, I believe the bones of God’s testimonies...can live! I am confident that God has unveiled divine truth to people…People are able to verify divine revelation but have no way to explain what they saw to a people of this age. So they bury it…"
That rung true for me. I think somewhere deep down I have buried things God has done for me because I’m convinced that telling people about it wouldn’t do any good. They’d just be skeptical and I’d look crazy.
My curiosity caused me to ask him, “So what are some miracles you’ve seen?”
He told me how he was abused all of his life, not really growing up with any parents. I told him I was sorry and he said, “Don’t be, I had the best parent of them all. You know he’s a father to the fatherless right? He really is. He’s my best friend!”
Paige went on to talk about how God had revealed things to him in a dream and quoted some scriptures about how God did the same thing for folks in the Bible. I want to point out a few things about the way he framed his story but first let me tell you what I learned right away from his first statement - we tell stories from overflow. And a lack of overflow in our walk with Christ is what’s causing us to bury our stories.
Overflow is when something is too good to keep to ourselves. It’s the excitement you get while you’re dialing your best friend’s number to tell them what just happened. It’s when something you have to say clicks with a moment in the conversation and you’re convinced you’re about to add value to the discussion at hand.
When it comes to Jesus, our prayer must be for overflow. When we read scriptures, we should read them until there’s overflow. When we interact with other Christians, we should aim for their overflow. Before we leave church, we should try to attain overflow.
Overflow does lead us to structure, whether we realize it or not. And just from talking to Paige and hearing his overflow I gathered a few steps he took to tell me some of his story.
1. He established trust so the story had somewhere to land.
Paige didn’t stop me to blow my mind. If he did, I wouldn’t have listened. He stopped me to give me a menu. After I brought up church, he asked me if I believed in Christ and then I was the one who opened the door to the conversation.
2. He admitted having a time of need.
Paige didn’t come across as a hero. He wasn’t trying to impress me. In fact, he started with his problems and opened a window to pain he’s felt. Immediately in the back of my mind I wanted an answer. How’d he deal with that?
3. He humbly stated what God had done for him.
When he told me about a miracle he had experienced he didn’t use over the top imagery. He didn’t try to shock me. He simply told me what he experienced. He had excitement in his voice, rather than arrogance. His attitude told me he felt blessed, not holier than thou.
4. He confirmed his story with scripture.
He quoted to me a passage or two where God had done something similar in the scriptures. This told me that he had studied enough to attach his faith to a foundation and that he wasn’t just making it up on the spot or talking about supernatural experiences in general.
5. He let me respond.
Maybe I had a story of my own. Maybe I didn’t believe him. Maybe I would mock his story. Whatever was coming, he didn’t brace himself or set up a defense, because he wasn’t telling the story to be received, he was telling it because it could not stay within him. Overflow.
What story have you been telling? Have you experienced overflow? Since we’re constantly sitting around tables anyway, we might as well use that time to share what God has done. Use these steps to tell your story.