I bet you’re thinking this post is about telling a great story or maybe hearing one. I know I love to hear a good story. But this post isn’t about the stories we tell others. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves! Oh, the stories we tell ourselves everyday of our lives. The ones we repeat over and over in our heads. It’s like having a needle stuck on a scratched vinyl record. Whoops, did I just date myself by mentioning records? Who plays records nowadays, we’re in the era of CDs people. Actually, if you ask my girls, they’d say CDs are old … “Just down load it or stream it, Dad,” they’d say! When did I get so old? Well, I digress … back to the stories we tell ourselves …
A couple of weeks ago, I had a particular busy day of ministry work. A fellow pastor asked me to make a hospital visit to pray and comfort one of our church members and family. Immediately following that, I had an evening counseling session with a couple for premarital counseling. I had been out shopping, the day before, and found a blue paisley bow tie on sale. So I decided to buy it and add it to my collection … I guess you could say that bow ties are one of my signature looks. My wife, Amy, often teases me because when ever I get something new I want to wear it or use it right away. And, here was my opportunity. So I put on my navy blue pinstriped suit, white shirt and light blue paisley bow tie. I placed a blue silk handkerchief in my suit coat pocket to accent my my bow tie. I looked good; if I do say so myself.
I kissed my wife goodbye and told her that I was leaving for the hospital. Amy lovingly said something to the effect of, “Do you think that maybe you might be just a little over dressed?” Ouch! On the outside, I asked Amy what she meant. But on the inside, this story started inside my head …
“Doesn’t my wife know me by now? This is how I dress. This is who I am. Why do people always have to comment on my clothes, my style … Me?”
GETTING TO THE HEART OF IT
Often it’s the stories that we tell ourselves that will propel our emotions. These emotions can be the driving force behind us and, all too often, we allowed them to take hold of the steering wheel of life. We may even find fault with people in order to defend our emotions and ultimately our stories. As the dialog between Amy and me continued about what I was wearing, the story in my head switched to …
“Why is my wife trying to sabotage my hospital visit by commenting on how I’m dressed?”
The stories we tell ourselves happen at such blinding speeds that many times we don’t even recognize that we’ve told them to ourselves. But our reactions aren’t so subtle. I started to defend myself by telling, or maybe yelling at, Amy, “I take my pastoral work very seriously and it’s important to look professional. My grandmother didn’t have much she could give me but she taught me to always look my best!”
But thinking that there might be a hint of truth to what Amy was saying, I begrudgingly pulled my navy blue cardigan sweater out of my closet and took it to wear instead of the suit coat … thinking it would tone down the look. On my way to the hospital, I kept thinking about why what Amy said bothered me so much. I realized the problem wasn’t what she said. The problem was the story I said, over and over in my head.
Whether you realize it or not at a very young age we start to develop a map in which we’ll continue to use to navigate throughout life. The best way for me to explain this is to share a little about myself. I grew up in a single parent household and was raised by my grandmother. My grandmother work at a local community hospital as a nurses aid and was known as Miss Annie by those that knew and had grown to love her. Miss Annie was a people person and it showed by her love and care of people. At a very young age she taught me to be self-sufficient by teaching me how to wash, cook, iron, sew, and coordinate my clothes. Miss Annie, as she was called, was the most well dressed person that you would ever meet. She had an eye for fashion and it showed. She had a hat collection that was out of this world and she wore them with a flare. When you don’t have much, you take what you have and made a statement with it. Now, God has blessed me to have more financial means than my grandmother did but that map has stayed with me.
These road maps, or stories, can be good for us to use or not so good. We have to use wisdom and know when it’s a story that’s good to tell ourselves and when it’s not. What kinds of thoughts will benefit us? Two scriptures come to mind …
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
Next week, let’s look at the importance of living our lives with “updated maps.”