Significance of Story
with Darby Strickland
Ann Maree: Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope, Hope Renewed in Light Of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.
Ann Maree: Author and counselor Darby Strickland is here to help us build a framework for how we’ll guide story-tellers through the process by first discussing with me ‘story telling’. I wanted to get you to know and love, as I do, and welcome our guest, Darby Strickland. Darby is a counselor and faculty member for the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. She is the author of the very helpful book, Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims. She is also contributor to the free web-based training curriculum, Becoming A Church that Cares Well for the Abused. Darby has a Master of Divinity degree in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. She currently teaches a course on counseling people in abusive marriages. She and her husband, John have taken great delight in homeschooling their three children. Darby also serves on the HelpHer board. So it is my pleasure to glean from her wisdom and compassion for women on a regular basis. And I’m excited for you all to learn from her as well. Darby, thanks for joining us.
Darby: Ah, thank you for having me. This is a great opportunity to get to speak to some sufferers who really need to know and understand God’s heart for them as their lives have unfolded.
Ann Maree: Absolutely. Yes. And I’ve enjoyed listening to you discuss Story and other conferences and venues and I’m excited that now our audience is going to be able to hear that as well. But before we start talking about language as important to our story, let’s talk a little bit about of story even the importance of story. So many secular therapies reference story in a healing process. But before they recognize the significance, God wrote a story, right, His Story. How can we in the church interpret the importance of that? The importance of story-telling.
Darby: Yeah. I think we just think about Scripture and the purpose of Scripture, it’s for our benefit, right. He wrote His story because we are part of it. And He wrote His story in such a way that we identify with it. And there’s this great and glorious story of redemption and we can get caught up in it; and part of that is because the Bible encapsulates so much story. I think, if you think that when we were younger and we went to Sunday School, we heard stories and we thought of them as ‘what is the moral we are supposed to get out of this story.’ Like, we are introduced to the characters; who’s bad, who’s good; how am I suppose to walk away and live righteously? And really, the stories in Scripture are so much more sophisticated than that, and they’re multi-layered and even as we move through our lives, and we read the same stories, we take different things out of them. And so, I think we, if we really look at why God imbedded stories in the Bible is because He is trying to teach us something about Himself in them and something about how He relates to His people in them. And that is, ultimately what we want to do in our story-telling of our lives, is we want to learn more about who the Lord is and more about how the Lord relates to us.
Ann Maree: Right. I love what you’re saying about God telling His story so we’re learning more about Him. I mean, that is the Bible right. It is the story that tells us where we’re from; it tells us who we are; it tells us, of course, who He is. And then, too, I think the stories are the connection that show us the relationship too. Because when we see the characters, if you will, in the Scriptures and how they are in relationship to God, I think that also gives us opportunity to look at our story and see that same connection with Him. But then, okay, so let’s go on to the first topic I think you articulate so well, you articulate everything well, but in the language and using the right language in our stories and this is what I’ll be helping some of the women do as they tell us their stories on this podcast. And even using the biblical language. Can you help us understand that a little?
Darby: Yeah, I think when we look at the Bible, we see that is doesn’t shy away from giving details. It tells stories of anguish, right. So if we even took a look at redemptive history, all throughout God’s good story for His people, they’re interrupted by stories of murder and infanticide, and rape, forced marriages, slavery, right, corruption, oppression. And there are these pauses in Scripture that talk about a lot of sin and a lot of wounds that God’s people carry. And in a sense, God does not shy away from using graphic language in His word to His people. Accurate language. And so, we get a sense of what happened in a technicolor way. And I think that’s often important. We often tell our stories in ways that are more veiled. We’re afraid to expose the details of what happened, sometimes. And I think Scripture just poses the invitation to do two things: And one is what I’m saying here, is to tell my story in great detail, in a way that it’s accurate for the benefit of community, right. It’s not - the Bible doesn’t share details just to vent, but it shares for the benefit of shelf and others to improve your relationship with the Lord. The Bible also details in story-telling, anguish and how to express anguish and lament before the Lord. And so those are the two things we’re looking for, as where someone is learning to tell their story, they’re not going to start out in an organized way. They’re going to have to scramble to use language. That’s the place where we want them to arrive.
Ann Maree: A very important point I think you just touched on, I don’t know if there is anything else you want to that but I often feel like sharing my own story - am I in danger of slandering? Am I in danger of gossiping? And what you just said about, it’s not about venting. In the Scriptures, the stories are told for the benefit of another. Do you have anything you want to add to that a little bit?
Darby: Yeah, actually, that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about right now, and it’s a very difficult thing to navigate because in some senses, we want to honor the image bearer and even the people who are fallen and are sinning. And so, what does that look like? Scripture also talks very clearly about enemies, right. And there are class of people who seek to do us harm; that devise malice; that plot, right. And I don’t know that we want to protect the reputation of that as much as Scripture calls us to expose. But there’s great wisdom and discernment as to were I am to be exposing that. I want to be exposing that to people who can me protect them from doing more harm. Because actually loving an offender is limiting their ability to sin and do more harm. And so, we have to be very careful one does not cross into slander. Those are really high level questions, so I about it as we want to love our enemies in how we speak. Satan wants nothing more than for us to sound like him when we interface and talk about our enemies. But we really want to image Christ so we are known as Christians even when we stand up against great evil. And that is a very hard thing to do and a high calling for victims and that’s something that I think why your ministry is so important, Ann Maree, because there’s layers and hours and hours of conversations that have to happen for someone to be healed enough for someone to do that in front of other people well. Right, so there’s a difference between what I’m saying in a private counseling conversation where we’re processing and there’s a raw lament, versus how do I do this strategically for the good of the community.
Ann Maree: Yeah. For the good of Christ’s body. For the good of the church. And one of the things that we are going to be very careful about on our podcast is mostly as we can about ourselves in story and not necessarily talking about the other, only as it relates to how it can further the progress of telling that story. But also, just not naming names. We’re not in this to out people, criticize people or to accuse people because we’re not an organization that is about investigation, if you will, so it’s more, like you’re saying, it is part of the healing process and it’s part of learning how…even to, like you said earlier, to organize your thinking about how do you even think about your story. How to put categories around it.
Darby: And, right, because you’re trying to say, their story is going to be useful to someone else who has a similar story that they can’t yet recognize what’s happening to them is wrong. Right, and so it’s for the benefit of the community in a beautiful way.
Ann Maree: It is, often times, and you’ve probably seen this in your counseling practice as well, that is how women, victims, men come to realize, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t right.’ If what that person experienced and is telling me is how they came to their conclusions of understanding it biblically and that it’s wrong, evil or sinful or whatever, I am in that same position and now I can start processing. So yeah, very much for the benefit of others.
Darby: And the more we can use, like you had said, biblical categories and be more precise about the specific sins that someone has endured and encountered instead of just using - what we tend to use, euphemisms - the more directly someone will relate the specifics of their story as well. So, precise language is really important and we want our language to be precise, in that, the words that we use are actually found throughout Scripture. Right. The word ‘distress’ is everywhere in Scripture. The words ‘evil sexual desires’ resides in Scripture. So there are these categories, that if the more our language is shaped by Scripture, it’s going to be easier for someone not to hear their own story, but then bring their story to Scripture and find hope there.
Ann Maree: Yeah. And again, I mean, it’s just another way for somebody to understand, God really does understand what I’ve suffered. Actually, I was just thinking about, this week, when we look at the suffering passages, us joining together in Christ’s sufferings, they were His first, you know. So looking at Scripture to find those descriptors of His suffering, even. I love that. Giving it categories. Giving that language to it.
Darby: Yup. Even where it says ‘Christ was reviled,’ right - that’s just a different word with a different impact, right. It just opens up a different level of understanding and imagery of us, but if I can understand my experience, ‘Oh, I was reviled.’ I now can connect that to how Christ went through that as well.
Ann Maree: Yup. A whole new level of healing that takes place. And, again, on the podcast, one of the things I will be carefully walking through with, with any of the story-tellers, is not using labels. I mean, that’s a tendency I think that can be of a lazy tendency, to just you know, just slap a label on it, and because we all speak that language, we’ll understand what each other means. But I’m not going to assume that everybody in our audience, particularly pastors and church leaders who spend more of their time exegeting Scripture for a sermon than they do for a counselee. I’m not going to assume what that label means, so I want the story-tellers to use specific descriptors, behavioral descriptors of the things that happened. And then too, again, the biblical language is what a pastor is going to be able to understand better than a label. Sometimes a secular label.
Ann Maree: We’re going to pause here today and look forward to the next time Darby and I speak about the importance of story-telling as it relates to healing and how to point the story-teller towards hope. Join us again as we further our understanding with Darby Strickland about language and story-telling on the Safe to Hope podcast.
You can learn more about Darby’s books and find a link to purchase in our show notes. For women wondering if what you’re experiencing is domestic abuse, Darby’s book Is It Abuse? is incredibly helpful. Those who minister in the church will also find her work very beneficial.
Safe to Hope is a production of HelpHer. Our Executive Producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written and mixed by Ann Maree and edited by Ann Maree and Helen Weigt. Music is Waterfall and is licensed by Pixabay. We hope you enjoyed this episode in the Safe To Hope podcast series.
Safe To Hope is one of the resources offered through the ministry of HelpHer, a 501C3 that provides training, resources, and the people necessary in order for the church to shepherd women well. Your donations make it possible for HelpHer to serve women and churches as they navigate crises. All donations are tax-deductible. If you'd be interested in partnering with this ministry, go to help her resources.com and click the donate link in the menu. If you'd like more information or would like to speak to someone about ministry goals, or advocacy needs, go to help her resources.com That's help her resources.com
We value and respect conversations with all our guests. Opinions, viewpoints, and convictions may differ so we encourage our listeners to practice discernment. As well. guests do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of HelpHer. It is our hope that this podcast is a platform for hearing and learning rather than causing division or strife.
Please note, abuse situations have common patterns of behavior, responses, and environments. Any familiarity construed by the listener is of their own opinion and interpretation. Our podcast does not accuse individuals or organizations.
The podcast is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional care, diagnosis, or treatment.