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Hearing Loons

March 15, 2019 by Melinda VanRy (New York, USA)

I wasn’t expecting to hear loons; they seemed exotic for my dull surroundings. I would expect loons in the dense evergreen of Canadian wilderness to the north, not in Central New York. But their calls came unmistakably across the water — plaintive. They echoed in my emptiness, and made my doubt feel reasonable. The unfamiliar birds floated on the misty surface of the reservoir, unaware of my listening broken heart. But the loons were not mournful like me. They were just communicating with each other, using the voice they were given.

Like the loons, I have a voice. It has a purpose. Like you, I have a story. We get to choose what we do with our voices, and how we use them to tell our stories.

Me? Much of my blogging and other writing is about my experience of mental illness and faith, often laying bare unflattering things. Part of my purpose is to share my heart, my flaws, and my weaknesses. If I worry about being judged or misunderstood, I will struggle to fulfill my purpose.

Let’s face it. Mental illness and religion are not simple topics, and there are many strong opinions about each. I may not want people to have unflattering misconceptions of me, but I am more concerned with giving others who struggle with mental health issues someone they can identify with and find hope in. All of our stories have hard parts. Many of us have experienced ugliness. We all experience loss.

Not everyone enjoys the call of the loon. I happen to love it. It does not always leave me feeling lost in shadowy wilderness.

Each of us is different. What appeals to us, what we identify with, what bothers us, touches us, moves us, or goes unnoticed varies from person to person and changes as we pass through different seasons of life.

If you read my experience of depression and think I am weak, you are right. But I am also strong. You also have weaknesses and strengths. You have a story. Maybe yours is broken; sometimes part of healing is sharing your story and leaning into someone else’s.

When we yield the hard parts of our stories — our experiences, pain, pasts — to God, God transforms them. God binds our broken pieces and delights in making something new and beautiful from what is shattered and jagged in us. A heart, a mind, a life can never look the same after it has been shattered, crushed, or torn apart at the seams. But in God’s loving hands, they become something more beautiful. Not despite being broken, but because they were broken.

Just as there are people who need to hear my story of living broken and whole in Christ, someone needs your story of hurt and healing. We cannot control how others receive our words, or how they will react to them. Just as the loons could not tell me that their call should not make me sad, we cannot know what others will think about us, or what they will think about God or their circumstances.

But we can be willing and ready to let God use our ugly, beautiful stories. We can be honest. Our honest stories of how we have been broken and how God can heal will speak to others who have been broken like us.

Like the loons, you have a voice. When you use it to share your story, it speaks to others’ hearts in the way only yours can.

To read more from Melinda, you can visit her personal blog here:

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The Upper Room magazine's mission is to provide a practical way to listen to scripture, connect with believers around the world, and spend time with God each day.

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