The stories we tell ourselves matter. Go into work thinking everyone’s out to get you and you’ll find yourself paranoid and agitated. Remember how much your family loves you and you’ll walk in the door ready to dole out hugs and kisses. There’s a connection between the story we tell ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.
This is especially true for Christians who join the story of their life to the great story of life itself when they lose themselves in being united to Jesus by faith. Our story gets swooped up into his. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” writes St. Paul, “for me to live is Christ.”
Too often followers of Jesus forget whose story they’re living in. Their own failures or problems of the world dominate the story of their lives more than the glorious good news of King Jesus’s resurrection and reign. One Scottish minister gazed at a congregation of Presbyterians and, for the long look in their faces during worship, asked, “Have yae all been baptized in vinegar?”
Is it any wonder that anger, resentment, and broken relationships characterize our churches? Or that our defense of the faith is more reactionary arguments than gracious invitations? No wonder many of us lack any power to fight off sin and temptation in our lives.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” writes the author of Hebrews. What do we hope for? What is the true but unseen story? Namely, that we who have believed have been bought with a price. We are not slaves but sons of the most high. Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us family. We’re destined for the New Jerusalem where every tear will be wiped away and God himself will be our light. This is our story!
What if we believed it?
In his fantasy adventure novel “North! Or Be Eaten,” Andrew Petersen writes of two brothers, long lost princes. One is hideously transformed into a beast when he loses hope in the true story of his kingdom. After he attacks his older brother, both boys are bedridden, one from injuries, the other having been restrained, for days on end. Each morning the boy’s mother asks her beastly son, “What is your name?” only to be met with a growl. But each night the older brother whispers stories of their youth to his transformed brother—stories of their childhood games, adventures, songs—till at long last one morning their mama comes down to their room and asks the beast, “What is your name?” and is delighted to hear “My name is Kal, son of the High King.”
He listens to stories of his true self and then, as the shadow passes, he believes them, and he remembers who he is.
Do you have a story teller reminding you of who you are? A gospel speaker whispering “beloved, child of God, adopted, chosen, made new” in your ears? How precious and powerful—to remember the true story of our identity and so live with hope for things as yet unseen.