Sunday, January 3, 2021

2021: Stories

I read a lot of stories.  Some stories are true, some are not, and some are a unique blend of the two.  In literature, that's usually called historical fiction.  I don't read a lot of this genre because I'm afraid when the story is done I won't be able to remember what was true and what was not.

I find myself questioning stories more and more. Even last night, as my husband and I watched stand up comedy on Netflix, I couldn't help but wonder if the stories being told were totally true, or if they were well crafted tales for the sake of a laugh. Perhaps it doesn't matter when I'm watching a Netflix comedy special - I will readily agree to that - but it certainly matters when your spouse tells you why he is late coming home from work.  Or your children tell you why they got in a fight.  Or your friend explains why they didn't share a piece of information with you.

A friend recently told me a story that was not totally true.  Let me rephrase that.  A friend recently told me a story in such a way that the narrative led me to believe a certain conclusion that I may not have come to if he had told it to me another way.  He added certain details (and omitted others) that made me question his motives in telling the story.  My husband encouraged me to question him on it, but it felt right to just let it go.  It was his story to tell after all. And as long as we are telling stories, I should admit that I have been guilty of doing the same.

Most of our stories never get told.  They float around in our head for hours, weeks, and even lifetimes unless someone corrects them.  In high school, I struggled with expectations.  On one occaision I remember sitting down with my counselor and allowing myself to tell the story I had written about myself.  "I'm lazy," I confided to him.

More than twenty years later I can still see his smiling face correcting me, "You're tired."  I will always be thankful that he rewrote my story.  The stories we tell others are not nearly as powerful as the stories we tell ourselves. 

So it is with great care we must tell stories, to ourselves and to others, to encourage and to correct.  We need to hear stories to know there are other ways, right ways, better ways.  As the psalmist wrote:
We’ve been hearing about this, God, all our lives.
Our fathers told us the stories their fathers told them,
How single-handedly you weeded out the godless from the fields and planted us,
How you sent those people packing but gave us a fresh start.
We didn’t fight for this land; we didn’t work for it—it was a gift!
You gave it, smiling as you gave it, delighting as you gave it.
(Psalm 44:1-3, MSG)
The story will not end with me.

I look forward to the new stories I will learn in 2021, the old stories I will revisit, and the stories I will be able to tell.

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