I’ve been thinking lately about all the stories I tell myself.
About all the stories we all tell ourselves.
Some narratives, I’d be more than happy to publish: like how I’m wife to Dr M, mum of three beautiful kids, a lover of literature. And in fact, I am conscious that I am just one tiny cog in a thriving publishing industry active amongst us minute by minute circulating just these types of stories.
Other storylines, however, are more private—perhaps I fear that if I were to let them loose in the world they would not make best sellers.
My personal, private self-circulated story library includes some dominant plotlines:
The wish stories (that often begin with the ‘If only’ opener);
The regret stories (they favour the phrase ‘I should have’);
The casting-eyes sideways at someone else stories (‘If I was just like her/him/them, then…’)
All these stories I carry in my mental catalogue —have carried, perhaps — as long I’ve known how to read.
And yet, even though the themes repeat themselves, time changes the content.
When I was a teenager, I wished I was like the girl who stood beside me. The one with the straighter, sleeker hair (if only GHD hair-straighteners had existed then). I regreted I didn’t look better in my uniform, wasn’t better at sport, wasn’t more confident.
As a young adult, I longed for the marks, the uni degree that might get me a scholarship for future study, the boy who’d give me a ring.
If I wasn’t casting my eyes sideways at my neighbour, I was straining them to look into the distance.
If I’m honest, I’m still doing it a lot of the time.
We are all born storytellers, whether you think you are or not. Because, in writing the stories of ourselves, of our lives, we are all reaching for self-definition.
The problem is that all these stories we tell ourselves… they never find a terminus. Rather than finding an ending in a happily ever after, they circle around us. And it’s tiring, to be always keeping up with the new-old version of your narrative.
Only with time and distance do we cast eyes backward and see the fault of our misinterpretations, our own skewed hearts.
That nervous teenager girl, if I saw her now, I’d tell her to take a deep breath. No one, not even the girl beside you, has it all under control.
The young adult, I’d say you’re fine, there’s still time. No need to rush so much.
I’m sure, in old age, I’ll look back and laugh at my 30 something hubris now.
A Bigger Story
“All of us are meant to find our identities in a story bigger than our own.” (Craig Tubman)
“God interprets you to you.” (Justin Moffat)
Our sermon series at St Phillip’s York, Street, — our new church home since February this year– has had this self-confessed word-nerd clicking her retractable pencil. We are currently coming to the end of a series on Metaphor in the Bible. Specifically, metaphors about the Word.
The first week of the series presented the idea that the word was ‘sweeter than honey,’and a couple of weeks ago, we learned how the Word is a mirror to the soul.
There are many reasons I love going to church, but one of the key ones is this: turning up on a Sunday helps me make sure my Monday-Saturday thinking-train hasn’t got me too off track.
Sitting amongst other believers, reading scripture, singing, worshipping, praying, sharing, I am reminded afresh (and we all need refreshing, and re-refreshing, and so on and on) of who I really am. Not the me of my imaginings, or speculations, no matter how convincing they may seem. (And we can be pretty good con-artists, especially when the person we are needing to persuade is ourselves.) But the me defined by the maker of me. The me that has been taken captive by truth, and freedom. The me that doesn’t ask who I am, but looks to the great I AM to give me certainty.
To quote from our sermon on Sunday:
We need God to tell us who we are.
He provides Scripture.
And what do you see?
[And here is the key that helps us turn away from all the doors leading nowhere, and opens the one door we need to enter, not by way of ourselves, but by way of Him]
I’m a creature of a good God, made in God’s image.
I’m a broken spirit, needing forgiveness.
I’m a loved Son.
A redeemed Daughter. (Justin Moffat, 31 July 2016)
These are the truths, THE PLOTLINE, I need to hear. That we all need to hear. These are the words that will help us regain the plot, when it might feel like we are losing it.
Because this is where self-definition, in all its fallability, collides head-on with God-definition. And the great I AM knows who I am, and who you are.
For in him we live and move and have our being – Acts 17:28
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever – Romans 11:36
Only found in Christ, are we truely found. He is our way, truth and life.
No matter what other stories we may be hearing, this is the one that counts.
End of story.