I’m excited to welcome Chris Bruno to the blog this week. Chris is the founder and president of Restoration Project, a ministry dedicated to helping men HEAL their wounds, KNOW their GOD, and RESTORE their world. He’s a sought-after speaker at workshops, conferences and retreats, and the author of the recently released END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. As a counselor, he directs the Restoration Counseling Center of Northern Colorado, specializing in men, marriage and mission.
“To tell someone else my story is tantamount to heart-level exposure that feels raw, naked and risky. Yet, the more we become fluent in our stories, the more we settle into our own skin and recognize the greater purpose of our lives…A hobbit is just a hobbit unless he is embroiled in a story too great for him alone. Because of his place in story, the hobbit becomes a hero.” (excerpt from the soon-to-be-released The Brotherhood Primer by Chris Bruno)
I recently dove deeply into one leader’s story. An executive from California, he holds a PhD in business, teaches graduate-level statistics courses, and has his eyes set on a political office. He has been married for 10 years and is the father of 2 little girls. He’s an elder in his church and heads up the local outreach team in his community.
And for years, he has secretly struggled with porn.
On the outside, he’s a brilliant, kind, God-loving man. On the inside, he feels dark, lonely and confused. Over the past decade, his battle with his secret has yielded moments of freedom only to succumb under the avalanche of shame and habit. About a year ago, he gave into the idea that “this is just how it is and there is no winning this war.” Then he lost his family because of his addiction, and all hell broke loose in his career.
“We are trees in the story of a forest.” ~ Donald Miller
There are tips and techniques for almost everything, and the realm of the soul is no exception. And while these may provide temporary relief to the nagging symptoms of our soul’s deep pain, they do not come close to freedom, life or true delight.
Only by understanding story ~ our story ~ can God open us up to the unique blessing he wants to to unleash in and through our lives. For it’s in story that the tree finds the forest, the hobbit finds the adventure, and the man discovers his true purpose, especially when he feels he has lost his way.
While we did spend some time working through practical measures to curb the twinge toward porn, our focus together centered more around the narrative of this man’s life than around his failures. Seeking narrative, especially Kingdom narrative, is an antidote to shame. Together we investigated the narrative arch of his life, looked at the places where his innocence was shattered, and where he lost his own sense of himself. It was through story that we rediscovered his soul.
Every good story has four primary parts. Story begins with innocence, moves too quickly into tragedy, spends most of its time and focus on struggle, and ultimately seeks restoration. Reading your own story has power, but reading of one another’s stories sets captives free, binds up broken hearts, and proclaims the day of celebration.
“People become people through other people.” Ancient African Proverb
Leaders especially are story-starved. Our focus as leaders mandates our attention on the vision, the project, the agenda, the movement, the company or the congregation. Far too many leaders either deny the power of their own stories, or believe that to be truly known by another would disqualify them from the ranks of leadership. And while leadership often requires the leader to “put their best food forward,” I believe that the best foot any leader has is a flawed one ~ a storied one ~ one that both exposes the vulnerability of the soul while holding fast to the truth of the gospel.
Even the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV): “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ~ of whom I am the worst.” This is not self-abasement. This is Paul’s heart-felt recognition that his tree needs the forest to have meaning and hope of redemption.
The man I mentioned did not leave our time together completely healed. In fact, the road to recovery has just begun. Yet he departed in tears knowing that while he had previously settled for a smaller narrative that ensnared him in darkness, his Creator’s story for him involves something far more epic.
Do you know your story? Do you love your story? On the road to where you are going, do you know who you have been ~ and more importantly, who you are becoming? Are there people in your life with whom you share story ~ not just tell stories about life, but share the story of your life?