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  • The Stories We Tell Ourselves

    What are the narratives you usually tell yourself when you think of February? Do they offer adventures on the slopes with a soft powder under your skis or vistas of amazing snow-capped mountains in their glistening grandeur? Or are they full of dreary and bitterly cold days shoveling out your driveway or endlessly waiting in the ice and snow for the train that never comes? As February offers a continuing growth of light into each day, do you notice the incremental lengthening of each day?

    Do your usual narratives haunt or encourage you? Dare you begin to understand how powerful these stories are to hurt or to heal, to destroy or to create?

    There are so many stories we tell ourselves and each other without recognizing the choices we are making simply by telling them. Do we pass on the stories of indulgence and consumption as “necessary evils” in our 21st Century lives? Do the stories persuade us of our own self-importance as though God loves us more than “those others”? What stories fill our days: “might makes right”, “the only real power is in violence”, “we must ‘win’ by putting others down”? Do your stories pass along the idea that the sufferings of others are really inconsequential when “push comes to shove”? Do they incite a passion for building bigger barriers or for constructing safe bridges for all as the “way to be” in the world?

    Words, stories, narratives—all of these have ways of creating a world, whether we are aware of them or not. As followers of Christ, do we give our hearts to the stories in which riches do not make you good or great? Do we tell each other the stories in which justice matters above one’s ability to purchase it? Do we repeat the stories and live into the reality in which humility is honored, dignity is offered to one another, respect is central to building our lives together into a community and a world in which we all can truly be “fully alive*”?

    Make no mistake about it. The stories we tell ourselves and each other shape our lives and our world. Being told we constantly need to prove ourselves through achievement, attainment, and acquiring more and more in attempts to make ourselves worthy and especially “more worthy than those others over there” does not allow for God’s grace to show us we are beloved. We need to be reminded of our deeper identity as creatures of the Creator God. Instead of these futile attempts to achieve our worth all by ourselves, may we hear the magnificent reversal given to us so palpably in the baby of Bethlehem. God’s Love bestows our worth! And the worth of the whole of creation! We cannot earn such grace. Disturbing and freeing!

    May we hear and pass on the stories that we belong to each other because we belong to God. We are responsible for each other because we are responsible to God, our Creator, the One from whom we came and to whom we will return. The Living God beyond our words, our best narratives, and our control. The unutterable One who has given us this gift of life. The One who yearns for us to love one another, as we have been loved into being. The One we dare to call our God.

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, First Congregational Church of Winchester (UCC) and Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston (UCC)

    *The glory of God is the human being fully alive.”

    —St. Irenaeus, 2nd Century