telling our stories

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life. 

Our stories themselves are telling, and have the power to be healing.  Or not.

2015-10-01 EJThis week the New York Times columnist David Brooks’ recent article, The Tale of Super Survivors, caught my attention.  Brooks references Richard Tedeschi, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who recognizes that trauma ‘is a shock that ruptures the central story that you thought was your life.’  Tedeschi goes on to explain ‘post-traumatic growth comes not from the event but from the struggle afterward to write a new story that imagines a life better than before.’  There is the time before the event, the event itself, and our response to the event, which can be a ‘reintegration, a reframing new story that incorporates what happened and then points to a more virtuous and meaningful life than the one before.’

Indeed, that is the Christian story in a nutshell.  Over and over again throughout scripture, people of faith experience events that upend their world and subsequently find ways to rewrite their stories, integrating their loss and pain into a future vision that is even more hopeful and life-giving.  This is most fully evident in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The despair and disorientation of his first followers gave way to an unstoppable joy that spread, and continues to spread, like wildfire. This joy is not adherence to a set of rules or repeating certain statements of belief. Rather it is the way of life, the inner conviction that God is always bringing life out of death, hope out of despair, light out of darkness.  It is having the courage to believe with all your heart, with an unshakable inner trust, that love is unrelenting in its commitment to helping us rewrite our stories into a future that is a blessing for ourselves and the world around us.

This isn’t simply for the big, earthshattering events in our lives. It is a recipe for living life in all of its daily challenges and opportunities.  Another article that caught my eye this week highlighted the ways in which our society is focused on what the author calls the ‘microcomplaint.’  The opposite to the path of courage outlined above is to fixate on the problems, large or small, to position oneself as the victim and to cling to the glory of the past.  Each of these actions entraps us, sapping the energy we, and the community, need to move into God’s promise, God’s future, God’s joy.  We have been given the ability to choose how we will respond.

In Deuteronomy, the choice is put this way:

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observeI call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him. 

2015-11-25 story tellingWhat will you and I choose this day? The challenges are real.  So are the possibilities.  As you gather with friends or family around the thanksgiving holiday, listen to the stories people tell.  What we focus on, what we tell ourselves, becomes our reality.  May we have the courage not only to listen to our stories, but to choose the way of life, the way of the resurrection, the way of hope and love.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life.  

Happy thanksgiving to you and yours!