I’m obsessed with communication. Whether I’m on stage giving a talk, or having a casual conversation with my wife at the end of a workday, my goal is to share a message that is important to me, and have the other person hear, understand, and remember it.
But not all methods of communication are equal. I learned this while writing a sermon a few weeks ago.
The message was entitled “I want out!”, and was geared toward married couples who might be prematurely considering ending their relationship. I spent a lot of time researching separation and divorce, gathered a bunch of statistics and scientific research, and put together what I thought was a very convincing talk.
Then, four days before I was to give my talk, I taught my weekly premarital class. We were having some great group discussion when I mentioned in passing that early in our marriage, I almost decided to leave Wendy. I continued trying to make whatever point I was sharing when one of the members of our class raised his hand and asked something to the effect of “What happened?”
Then, in one of the most genuine, authentic moments I’ve ever experienced in ministry, my wife and I talked to the group about our early struggles in marriage. “We just weren’t able to get along,” we told them. “And our conflict felt out of control.” I talked about the day that I had decided I’d had enough and asked my boss for time off to end the relationship–a memory I’d prefer to forget entirely.
Then, we shared what it was like to see a counselor and get help. We were honest about how bad things were at our first counseling session, and as we recounted the experience my wife and I both began to tear up.
Wow. After all these years… there was still genuine pain there for both of us.
Then we talked about how things turned around, and how quickly God transformed a difficult marriage into an amazing one. I told the group that for the past nine years Wendy and I have been amazingly close. We still have our moments, but our marriage has become a tremendous source of joy for both of us.
Something about that experience was so powerful, so authentic and meaningful, that I decided to re-write my talk and share our story with the 6,000 or so people that would attend church that weekend. The response was amazing. Since then, I’ve received so much feedback from others about how they identified with what I shared. They connected with the authenticity of our story, and wanted to share their experiences.
This is what I learned. Opinions and ideas count for something. But stories count for so much more.
Every day you have messages to share. You have information your kids, spouse, friends, and co-workers need to know. And you’re up against a lot of other noise. There are a lot of competing messages out there. But don’t be discouraged. What you have to say is important. If you want yours to stand out, use your most powerful communication tool. Share your story!