Wrap it in a Story

I’ve learned that what’s in the package isn’t really the problem, it’s how we wrap it.

We were over at a friend’s house and she said she admired the way I did something which I’d never really thought about or put it into words before. Ironically, it’s probably best when someone admires you for something you thought you were supposed to do anyways.

She said something like “You have a way of creating a story around hard things. There’s a narrative that makes it make sense to you.” I know I’m taking a bit of liberty with her words which I’ll blame on my terrible memory, but the reason I have a terrible memory is because I used to meet 5-10 new people a day and before I knew it, I had trouble remembering things like names. It’s not that I don’t like people, I really love people but ….

See? Maybe I’ve always done it.

It should be noted that the story you create is always the reason you do something, which is never admirable if it gets you off the hook for failure, but she wasn’t critiquing something I was failing at, she was admiring the way I meet negative issues with positive stories.

It should next be noted that some of us aren’t really doing all that much except consuming, so creating a positive story would be a waste of valuable “consuming” time, and we should just get back to that until we feel like doing something productive.

But when I’m trying to make a difference in the world for good and have a mountain to climb, I wrap it in a story.

A few weeks ago we baptized 28 people. You might not be a God-person, but you’d still find something to admire about the pluck it took for our crew to engage in hundreds of conversations, hear about countless heartaches and betrayals, watch broken people tell their tale from every walk of life and background you could imagine, and try to help them in any way they could.

And through it all threads a story I that I started. It begins with “A life saved is worth everything!” Why? Because it HAS TO. Then, “Meet Susan. Here’s her story…”

No matter what I am going through personally, or how much sacrifice it takes to lead people well, I wrap it in a story, and the story is never about me or I’d just quit, it’s about someone else.

You can’t throw a stick across your grocery store without hitting ten people who are hurting (maybe more depending on how hard you can throw:), but I can tell my heart’s getting off centre when I’m thinking about my own heart and not someone else’s who has it worse than I do.

I know there’s this thing now that says you have to fix yourself first before helping people, but I’m not sure that’s true in the way some take it. I think you get fixed while helping people. In fact, what good is health if not for helping? I personally suspect many people see themselves operating at 20% when all they would have to do is listen to the story of someone whose kids go to the same school, who have had to deal with daily torment we couldn’t even imagine, and wouldn’t it give us much needed perspective? The only trouble is, we wouldn’t be allowed to feel sorry for ourselves anymore.

So we fall for the trap of telling our own story over and over until we become the tragic hero whom everyone is out to get because they’re secretly jealous of how special we are!

I’d rather tell someone else’s story.

I deal with broken people and am one myself most of the time, but God forbid I ever start thinking of myself like that. I coached someone just last week by saying I combat hard things with finding who I’m helping and creating a story around it and constantly reminding myself who it’s for.

Which means I’d better get healthy quick, or someone behind me will fall too.

And that’s the trick. There are things buried deep inside of us that will truly hurt too much for us to have the courage to deal with if it’s only for our own personal health. Every one of us has a line that we won’t cross even for our own freedom.

But the fire that burns hot enough to get to the real issues are wrapped in stories about my people. “If I don’t deal with this, my daughter will have to.” To which I get a look on my face that tells self pity to step back and let a real emotion in. Like love. Like self sacrifice. Like courage. Like she wins if I don’t quit.

So whenever I’m having a bad day, I tell myself a story.

“Remember Susan? She didn’t leave her condo for months until she watched you online. Her dad said she was a failure at being a woman, a mom, and a human being! You said her life is worth everything and she believed you and is actually out living now! But here you are thinking about YOU?? Stop it! Grow up!”

Every time it hurts my feelings a little,

But every Susan matters more…

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