You either walk inside your own story and own it
or stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.
I don’t have to do anything to find a story from my past that has me hustling. These stories remind me often enough that they’re there.
When something happens to me that shouldn’t be a big deal and wouldn’t be a big deal to the next person but is a BIG DEAL to me, I’ve bumped into a story that owns me.
You know something’s a BIG DEAL when it makes you want to retaliate.
That’s how the Israelites felt when they were exiled to Babylon and their captors asked them to sing them a song from their homeland. This seemingly innocent request elicited a huge WTF reaction in them. They were so enraged, they imagined the joy they’d feel if someone took their captors’ babies and dashed them against the rocks. It’s in Psalm 137. Read it for yourself.
I take great comfort in the fact that God allowed such a violent expression of rage to be included in our prayer book. It gives space for my anger.
I don’t always understand what’s going on when I’m outraged. But as I sit with another in a similar place, I can see that their anger is madly trying to alleviate the unbearable pain they’re experiencing.
My counselor friend told me that anger is a call to action. God, at the very core of our being, is reacting to injustice and sending a message: this is NOT okay.
Anger’s a good messenger but a bad advisor. Yes, we need to do something, but if we act on our violent inclinations, we merely perpetuate what was done to us.
Instead, we can share with God what’s happened and how we feel. As we loosen our grip on our anger and bear the unbearable, transformation begins.
We remember feeling this way before. When we follow the thread of similar feelings, it can lead us to an unredeemed story in our past that’s trapped us.
That’s exactly where God wants to go. God wants to return with us to a time when we were hurt and our fear latched onto that violation as proof that we’re worthless.
Here and now, God wants to write a new story.
Perhaps God will send Jesus back into our past and we’ll see a new story unfold. This happened to me not long ago when I remembered being shamed by my elementary school principal.
Perhaps God will speak through the words of a song or a line in a movie to gently dismantle our fear and return us to what’s true.
Perhaps a wordless knowing will come, like a breeze through a wide open window, and we’ll know because we know because we know: we are precious.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
–Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
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Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. Talk about love mischief for the world! She’s spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. Her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone, will be released mid-September.
In this Facebook video, Brené responds to the recent protest and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Brené says, “We need to own our stories or they will own us.” Here she talks specifically about the stories we hold in common with others.