I’m starting a hard thing this week. It’s good, but it is still hard, too. And, there is no way around it. I have to go through it. It’s like that song about going on a bear hunt that preschoolers sing and you keep coming to these obstacles like the peanut butter river and you sing: I can’t go over it. I can’t go under it. I can’t go around it. I guess I’ll have to go through it. Yep, I have to go through it.
So I’m starting this hard thing and I am staring up at this giant and I am afraid, anxious, full of nerves. Then I remember and in the remembering I remind myself:
Wait, I’ve killed a bear and a lion. I can knock this one out, too.
I come out of a religious tradition that places value on telling your story, or as it is sometimes called, testimony. We honor a person’s narrative, what a person has been through, and we want to hear about it. When churches were smaller time was devoted for just that very thing…telling your story. We believe it is important to live out Deuteronomy 6:20-21: “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the LORD our God has commanded us to obey?’ Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand.’”.
When our children ask us why we follow God’s word…rather than giving them a three point sermon or a lecture…we are told to tell them our story. We are told to testify. We tell what we have been through, about our own Egypt God has brought us out of. And, children, that’s why. That’s the meaning.
Hearing another person’s story can be very encouraging. It can inspire us. However, it is also very easy to discount. Sure, YOU were able to do that. YOU have this or that going for YOU or look what YOU have that I haven’t or look who YOU know that I don’t. Just because YOU have done this doesn’t mean I can.
The inspiration can wane quickly. You are left with YOUR story. However, there is ONE story that cannot be discounted. Yours. You know where you’ve been. It is difficult to argue with what you know to be true about your own life.
I call it experiential knowledge and I love to get there with a client in therapy. I love to hear where they’ve been and what they have been through and when they are discouraged about where they are going I love to gently help them remember.
I’ve killed a bear and a lion.
Not anyone else. ME.
New information from teaching and the stories of others can be powerful and give new perspective, but there is something significantly different about something you know in your head (head knowledge) and something you KNOW because you have experienced it…you have faced it and conquered it before.
I know that I am strong enough to say no to one more drink and because I did it before I KNOW I can do it again. Not anyone else. ME. I did that.
I know that I am strong enough to stay away from that relationship and because I faced this similar situation before I KNOW I can do it again. Not anyone else. ME. I did that.
I know that I am strong enough to start a new job all over again and because I have started new jobs before I KNOW I can do it again. Not anyone else. ME. I did that.
I know that I am strong enough to handle this move to a strange place and because I have moved before I KNOW that I can do it again. Not anyone else. ME. I did that.
Experiential knowledge. Knowledge that I have done this (or something similar) and I can do it again.
Sometimes we need to testify to ourselves: I’ve killed a bear and a lion.
In 1 Samuel 17:36 when the people are questioning whether or not this young, smallish boy, this child named David, could actually, should actually face off this giant called Goliath, David simply tells them: Look, I’ve done this before. I’ve killed a bear and a lion.
I am reading between the lines here, but I wonder if David was telling himself this fact as much as he was telling the people. I wonder if he was afraid, anxious, full of nerves. I wonder if he looked around, recognized these emotions, and said to himself: Oh, yeah. I’ve been here before. I wonder if he remembered and in the remembering reminded himself as much as anyone else:
I’ve killed a bear and a lion.
So, I am looking at this next Goliath, not the first in my life and certainly not the last, and I am feeling afraid, anxious, full of nerves and I am saying to myself: Oh, yeah. I’ve been here before. I recognize this place. Yep, there’s the fear, there’s the anxiety, there’s the nerves. I remember all of this. I also remember that these feelings are not the end. I remember this story. I remember how it ends. I remember because I have been here before and I remember that I killed the bear and the lion. THAT’s how this story ends. And, I can knock this one out, too.
You don’t know what my Goliath is and I don’t know what yours is, but I am fairly certain that either you are facing a Goliath now or you will be…soon. And, I am fairly certain that you’ve killed your own, too…killed your own bears and lions….that you have your own remembering and reminding to do.
So you can tell yourself…wait, I remember this place. I remember these feelings. Yep…there’s fear, there’s anxiety, there’s the nerves. You can tell yourself…I remember all of this. I would also bet money that you can remember that these feelings are not the end. They are not the end of the story…the end of YOUR story. I am fairly certain you can remember that you’ve been here before and you can remember that you killed that bear and that lion. That’s the end of YOUR story. And, you can knock this one out, too.