When I wrote my last two posts – The Stories We Tell and Dealing with Shame, I did not realize that there would be a part three! In the first post, I talked about the stories we tell, whether books, movies, or TV shows, have a deeper purpose in revealing what is really in our hearts. We demonstrate the greatest and the worst qualities we have. In the second post, I mentioned how shame affects our past, present, and future. In other words, shame can rewrite memories so that it highlights the pain and obscures the good.
I want to highlight that thought; the stories I am focusing is not about the next MCU or DC movie or Disney’s Star Wars – The Mandalorian season 2, but I tell myself (and maybe you) about me.
Let me repeat that: How do I describe myself to me?
I know it shows very self-absorbed, but you will see why this is an important question. If you do not answer this question, it will affect how your own health and how you relate to others.
The stories we tell about ourselves are much shorter. They are not epic 3 hour plus Lord of the Rings. Actually, they are more like short stories of less than 10000 words. In fact, they are closer to an urban legend about Ernest Hemingway’s short story challenge. According to lore, Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in 6 words. The man allegedly wrote something on a napkin then slid it over – and won the bet. Sadly, researchers said this never happened, but my point remains – that how we describe ourselves tend to be brutally short. Yes, brutal and short.
Here are some short stories we have told about ourselves – in one word:
You can add your own words to this list and with that share the pain as well. And at this point, I could stop and just wallow in each other’s misery.
However, I can’t stop there – not when Christianity brings a message of redemption and renewal:
- Created in the image of God
- Lost but now found
- More than conquerors
- Accepted by God
- Free to love others
- Abounding in hope
- Co-heirs with Christ
Just as the list of pain and sorrow could go on for a while, so can the list of attributes of being a Christian – a sinner saved by grace flowing from a loving God.
I am not talking about a positive mental attitude or self-help which is of limited value. Rather, it is letting guilt, shame, and remorse ruin the story of my life and relationship with others, or letting a loving God redefine my story. There really is no other way.
But then, who else can I turn to deal with guilt, shame, and remorse? The solution is not found in me because I’m the problem! Not society or any other political institution – some are even worse than me and I’m already screwed up! Religion? That’s just a breath mint for a cancer patient.
Thus as a sinner saved by grace, I can only look up and ask Jesus to change my story – from a story of despair and depression to hope and restoration. He did that for me, he is currently changing my present, and given me hope for the future. He can do that for you.