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Transcript of Safe to Hope Podcast: Premiere 7 with Melissa Affolter

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. [theme music] Ann Maree I am talking once again with Melissa Affolter here on the Safe to Hope podcast. Melissa, if you'll remember is the designer and the facilitator of the Restoried support groups. Today, we're going to pick back up talking about story and the uniqueness of storytelling in community, as well as the necessity of story for healing and growth. So here's a good one. What's the difference between telling the story being the cathartic way people change and what you do? Melissa Yeah, I think when, I think about that word, cathartic, you know, the ultimate goal, typically, with something that is termed cathartic is relief. You know, that's, what I think of immediately. And you just kind of really paved the way for this point, which is so great. I love it. This is so perfect. It was very unintentional, but so good. The relief that we're seeking, obviously, we know as Christians, we would say that comes from Christ from the realities of what is to come, even if we don't experience relief this side of eternity. But I think the goal or the, I guess the difference between something being cathartic, and then what I do or what, what I would hope a lot of us are trying to do with with this kind of work is, yeah, I'm coming right beside someone and saying, 'I have hope for relief for you. I do. And I even believe it's possible, this side of heaven’, it's not that I'm lament doesn't mean we're resigning ourselves to living a certain way for the rest of our lives. We're simply acknowledging this is how it is today. Or this is how it has been. And so I'm, I'm acknowledging, I'm naming, but I'm also shifting, I'm, even if I can't really get my head around the shift, I'm leaning into those promises of the shift that I've seen in the Psalms, in Scripture. This is where in my Restoried groups, we go back to certain stories, one of my favorite ones, is the woman with the bleeding problem, you know, 12 years of all kinds of not only the physical realities of what that looked like for her, but how that impacted her entire world. And a lot of that, you know, we don't get all of the, we don't get the whole story in the Bible, right? Like we get what we get. God chose, by His, you know, divine knowledge and His perfect desire for us to have His word, He chose to have us read in there, what what we have. And so in my group, I will challenge the women. This is where we can sometimes use our creative creativity, our sanctified imagination, we know that's not like, the ultimate authority, but we can imagine, we can fill in some colors and textures of what life was like for a woman like that. And so when we do that, I think it helps us to see this, looking at her story or looking at my story, or when they're looking at their own story - That’s what helps us see this isn't just to be well, when is my relief coming? Like? I'm just pouring out my whole story, all the details. kind of almost like I'm just dumping it there and then and narratives. And now I'm relieved. Because we all know that typically people, when they when they do that they're not relieved, we think it will result in relief. And then when we don't have relief, we're perplexed or frustrated or disappointed. And so the path of story work that we're trying to aim at, I think is like, saying, ‘How can we land that somewhere else?' We're not landing at just this felt relief, like where I'm feeling it internally. And I can almost like, let my shoulders down and give out a long sigh. It's actually much bigger than that. Ann Maree Yeah, lament is purposeful. It has movement to it. Yeah, I think of it as ongoing, I suppose. I don't think it's also offer what you said, I don't think it's too far of an imagination to think of the cramps that woman must have, you know. Melissa And the social and cultural implications of that. I mean, commentators have written about that for years, like, what was life like, at the time for her? Ann Maree Yeah, they didn't have the modern conveniences that we have now, either. Okay, so how… And this is a good question, again, to how will counselor or a survivor know when they're ready to tell their story, either publicly or not? Are there any benchmarks or processes that we need to look for? Melissa Hmm. So I probably stay more away, not because it's wrong. It's just not my approach necessarily, or my natural style to look more for like benchmarks, per se. But I look more for helping the person discern what is the Spirit doing here? Like, what is what is His role in this? What how, how has He been already moving? As they've maybe shared their story with me or shared it in one of our groups. Or maybe they've shared parts of their story with a couple of trusted friends. Then we'll talk about like, in a reflective way, not just how was that experience of sharing your story a little bit. But in looking back on it, since then, like, you know, maybe they come in for a counseling session, and a week ago, they shared a part of their story with two of their trusted friends. And maybe now they're being asked, because I've had this happen, maybe they're being asked to share more broadly, maybe a small group at their church has asked them to share a bit of testimony about their story, maybe they want to write about it. We see that oftentimes, you know, and so this is where I'll start just asking them the more. I don't know if abstract is the right word, I just can't necessarily think of a different word. But I guess more open ended, abstract type questions about, Hey, I can't I can't discern for you, what the Spirit would be calling you to do with your story. That’s not my role I can help you think through some practical tools, which may be those would be benchmarks, I guess. So thinking through, do they have a good support system in place, so that if they were to start sharing their story, you know, if something were to come back and feel much harder for them, then what they anticipated, maybe they experienced some, some setbacks, or some triggers, or just some some significant bumps in the road from sharing. I want them, I want to know that they feel like they have some good supports in place before they start doing that. So there's gonna be some practical mixed with the more larger picture stuff of like, what's the Spirit doing here. Is He calling you to this? And if He is, it's gonna look different for you than it looked for me or looked for my other person that I talked to last week. Everybody's way of sharing is going to look different. Ann Maree Are there certain elements that a God honoring story should always have? Melissa Yeah. I really appreciate this question because I think we, as biblical counselors, we want, if I'm being honest, we want to make sure we hold God and His Word in such high esteem that I think, again, going back to that fear thing, we're always kind of like, a little bit apprehensive about, well, what if this person shares and they really just don't ever get to a part that feels redemptive, or that acknowledges God's work in this person's life. So I just tend to be very careful here, because my own propensity for a variety of reasons, this is where the counselor has to be so cautious to not put our own convictions, which might be right and appropriate at times, but I can't force that on to the person that I'm talking to. And so this, again, is where I'm asking myself, and I'm also asking that person, ‘what's the Spirit doing here?’ What would He want the showpiece or the centerpiece, I guess, of your story to be like? What would that be? And I think, for me, at least when I do this work with the women in the story, because a lot of them are either currently already have tried to share their story with people. Maybe they have felt frustrated or hurt by the way people have responded to their sharing. And so we have a whole segment of resources, where we talk about the theological and the relational implications of sharing your story. And my whole purpose in doing that is to try to help them discern what elements should I or could I potentially have in my story, and I find that that promotes a lot of fruitful discussion between the women in the group, we will talk about, like, there's one week when we do a theological implication that I've titled groaning and God's goodness. And so we look at Romans 8, and talk about how that that whole passage sometimes can be the way that people might want to hear our story. You know, like, and we might even think I have to get to the part where I'm saying, ‘but God works all things together for good', right? And so we wrestle through that, and talk about what what is the actual context of what's being said in Romans 8. Because it's really not that I have to figure out a way to make my story, see my, but at some point, God's using it for my good. And so we