The Stories Were All In My Head
I remember the first time I heard “I Need You To Survive” by Hezekiah Walker. I was at church and choir members walked out of the choir loft, down the stairs, and into the aisles with big smiles and outstretched arms. The congregation was serenaded with “You are important to me, I need you to survive.”
Maybe I was feeling a little pessimistic that day because I remember thinking, “Now what?” I wondered to myself, “What are you going to do to live out what you’re saying, because I don’t feel important to you and I don’t feel like a big part of the family, and I certainly don’t think you’re going to quit gossiping cold turkey.”
Okay, fine, I was feeling a LOT of pessimism.
I can tell you why I felt that way, but the Bible teaches us that God looks at the heart of a man (1 Samuel 16:7), so I try to always see the reason behind the action. And, underneath my icy attitude lived deep hurt accompanied by feelings of insignificance, exclusion, and shame. Those stories shaped my thoughts, which shaped my behavior and created my life.
But, I didn’t realize that right away…
Swap the Book, Change the Channel
It wasn’t until many years of Biblical teaching that I realized I wasn’t a victim, I was a victor. But, being the over-achiever that I am, I kept trying to be both.
One minute, I was positive and hopeful, clinging to God’s promises. The next, I was speaking the opposite of everything I truly desired and feeling stuck and helpless. I was the best bi-polar Christian you ever did see and I knew something was terribly wrong with that way of thinking – not to mention the exhaustion!
So, I decided to release the double-mindedness that consumed me and focus on what God said. But, as I began to speak life, I found myself still misaligned. This time, it wasn’t what I was saying currently that butt heads with the promises of God, but rather the stories surrounding my past. They didn’t make sense anymore.
Once Upon a Time
Can I give you an example?
It’s a running narrative on one side of my family that we are looked down upon. And, I have used that story as proof of why I felt excluded from the church, friendless, and insignificant. And, my looked down upon identity propped up all the bitterness and jealousy I harbored toward others who seemed to fit in perfectly, had lots of friends, and were an integral part of the church.
When I wasn’t asked to speak, it wasn’t because my attendance was sketchy, it was because they thought I wasn’t good enough. When I wasn’t invited to hang out, it wasn’t because their parents were friends and hung out together, it was because they didn’t want me around because I wasn’t good enough.
When I realized that my grandmother (who primarily raised me) was 30 years their parent’s senior (and logically wasn’t best buds with them), or that I low-key thought the church was a bit stale and didn’t really want to be a part of what they were doing so I half-attended, the story became a lot less dramatic and actually rather unemotional.
It wasn’t a story satan could use to manipulate me anymore. I went from being not liked, unlucky and unworthy to just being a kid who lived with her grandma and probably should have done more to foster relationships.
I believe this is one of the reasons it’s so important we renew our minds daily. Satan is patient and loves to jack up our minds daily with all of these stories we’ve concocted and carry with us everywhere. And, while believing the wrong thing isn’t a sin, the behaviors that come with it (like coveting and hate) are.
4 Ways to Re-write Your Stories
1. Prayer and gratitude.
God tells us to pray without ceasing and give thanks for everything. Have you prayed for what has you in chains? Sometimes we just dwell and dwell while never thinking about going to God in prayer. Instead of envying girls who formed close-knit relationships, I should have prayed for God to send me girlfriends or at the very least struck up a conversation with them. Why harp on the problem when you can spend that time crafting a solution?
2. Back away from the dime.
Hold a dime (or whatever’s handy) right in front of your eye. When you focus on that dime, everything else in the room becomes fuzzy or disappears altogether. Now, move the dime away from your eye. Suddenly, you’re able to see more of what’s around you. Similarly, there are people and parts of our lives that we focus on entirely too much! And, we can’t see all of the other people who are actually rooting for us and the part of our lives that is working well. Don’t waste your time focusing on the dime that you bypass all the quarters and dollars out there!
3. Get Over Yourself.
After reflecting a bit and quite frankly, getting over myself, I remembered that I wasn’t so fond of that church or its members. And, my inconsistency revealed my heart pretty loud and clear. So, to expect them to eat me up was an unrealistic expectation. When someone starts to treat you how you really feel on the inside (whether you’ve vocalized it or not), don’t make a fool out of them. Own up to the fact that you want to have your cake and eat it too. And then, get over yourself!
4. Mirror, Mirror on the wall…
The wall you build to keep people out will lock you in. I can become a stone wall to people I don’t trust with my heart. It’s not who I am naturally, it’s just who I become when I’m uncomfortable revealing the true me. Well, sometimes, we can secretly wish for people to somehow see the real us and treat us accordingly. Those people do exist, but more times than not, we have to show our hand first.
On my wedding day, I really wanted to have people around me. I wanted people helping me get dressed and snapping pics and chatting about my future. Instead, I got dressed alone in a hotel room with no one to drive me to the location. I built walls to protect myself from all the hurt and drama that had ensued weeks before. I built walls because I was tired of hearing unwarranted opinions. I built walls because I didn’t trust anyone. And, no one came in with a sledgehammer to tear down those walls on my wedding day. They remained up and I remained locked inside of them, alone.
So, what’s the play call?
I’m not suggesting that what you’ve experienced is all your own doing. But, I am suggesting that there may be another side to the story that you haven’t taken into consideration. And, whoever did whatever isn’t worth you being bitter, angry and stuck one more minute (Ephesians 4:31).
If we want to live a life of victory, believing that God is able to do just what He said He would do, we can’t hold on to the “woe is me” past. When we look back and see all of the parts, the tragedies of our lives turn into the testimonies of our life (Revelation 12:11). But, we can’t see in a new way without a renewed mind and a clean heart.
Ask God to create in you a clean heart. As the Holy Spirit reveals things to you, be open to view your life with fresh eyes. Don’t allow the story you created around your brokenness to keep you from properly healing and truly living.
Photo by Matheus Vinicius