Your Story/My Story

What is your story, the one you cling to in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the one that justifies your life as you live it and keeps you in the same old place? Each of us grows into a story that we develop in our childhoods that can stay operative in us sometimes for a whole lifetime. If we’re fortunate, we see in midlife or beyond how to let go the story which limits our ability to live in reality. Two examples from my life leap to mind. First, it was easier to see my mother’s story than my own. She could find rejection in anything anyone said to her. At some point as an adult I realized that she sorted for rejection, that her lens on the world allowed her to see negative in the positive, and to make that the major part of the story, to question everything that happened to her.

 

It took me a long time to discover my own story. The bottom line of my story was this: “it isn’t going to work out for me.” This was my refrain, the chorus I sang unconsciously to myself as I went about my days, reinforced by the fear that accompanied the thought. When I look back on my life today, thinking about all the decades and things that happened to me, I know that I told myself a lie all those years. My life, while not without difficulties, challenges and suffering, has been a wonderful life. Why couldn’t I realize that all those years ago? I think that during my childhood I adopted this attitude—I can’t remember why– and clung to it as I became a young adult and then a full-fledged adult. It colored my thinking as nothing else has. And until I became conscious of reality being so different from the story I told myself, that attitude ruled my life and colored how I thought and felt, how I responded to life and to God. Like my mother I saw my life and what happened to me through a smudged lens that enabled me to cling to my limited  opinion of my life. Every thing that happened to me then confirmed my story.

Last weekend I led a retreat on the Exodus story and afterwards I began to think that what enslaves us most and keeps us in our own personal “Egypt” is the story we tell ourselves, the one we cling to, the one we stubbornly refuse to discard so that we can avoid looking at our reality as it is. Until we can break free of our story’s grip on us, until we can leave “Egypt,” we are bound to repeat over and over again the problematic attitude towards our life. It will dominate our thoughts and feelings, mostly in an unconscious way. The Exodus story shows how difficult it is to leave “Egypt;” it takes an inordinate struggle and lots of help from God and our inner “Moses” to break free. And even then its pull follows us into the wilderness, keeps us yearning for the old place, even as we begin to break free of it.

What is your story? What story confirms your view of life? What keeps you in “Egypt?” What keeps you a slave to an old story? It is very freeing to claim your story line, to acknowledge the underlying lie. Once you do that, no matter what the story has been, you then have a choice whether to continue it or not, whether to allow the same old emotions to attach to the same old thinking, whether you will continue to see your life through that limited lens.

Once you’ve made the choice to live in reality, then you can take a long and loving look at how your life has gone. You can see the sacrifices, the challenges, as well as the good parts of your life. Until you can do that, until you move out of your story into the reality of your life, you are stuck, enslaved in Egypt. Once out of Egypt you can begin to experience life as a gift and your life, no matter the difficulties, as a blessing. Once the negative lens is cleaned and polished so that you can see everything clearly, then you are free. And then the question becomes, what is freedom to me? God is calling you to freedom, to the promised land. Can you respond or are you still held captive in “Egypt?” If you are able to leave your “Egypt,” you will clearly see how present and providential God has been in your life. You will see and feel his love and caring for you, his forgiveness and welcome. Amen.

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