I’ve heard some stories. Stories which, in at least one case, I wish I’d never heard and can’t get out of my head. Awful stories. I’m not telling them, in this blog or elsewhere. There are lots of reasons for that.
I wish I could unhear them, I wish I did not know what I now know. Even more, I wish that, instead of wiping my own memory clean, that I could erase that event from the lives of those it happened to.
But of course, I can’t do any of that. And for a long time, as I wrestled with it, unable to forget, painful to remember, excruciating to visualize, I wondered how I could come to terms with it. Even more so, how do those to whom it happened come to terms with it?
How do we come to terms with our stories? We all have them. We have the stories of what has been done to us, in violence or anger or with carelessness and neglect. We have our wounds. We bandage them and pretend that they are not there, we nurse them, maybe we trot them out regularly to show our scars and gain sympathy. Some of us are luckier than others, some of us have stories that are small and mild and easily forgiven, some of us have horrendous stories which devastate our faith in others and our view of the world, most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
I’ve been struggling to come to terms with these stories, and in doing so, had a moment of clarity: We are not our stories. We are NOT our stories. I only know the story, I don’t know which person it happened to. And I wondered–if I did know which person it happened to, would it change how I viewed them? And I realized it would. I would see in them a victim. And that is my fault, not theirs. They are NOT their story.
The person is so much more than the story. Even though this is the most awful thing I think I’ve ever heard, it is not what defines this person. How does one story define them? Their divine spark is still there. They are still a divine creation, a child of God, an innocent light.
And if I try really hard, I can also see their perpetrator as a divine creation too. This is harder and I can’t hold the vision for too long, because my desire to blame and my anger cloud my vision, but it’s there and I’m working on holding it.
Steve Bolen, the minister of Unity of the Hills in Austin, said it best this last Sunday. When we fall short, when we beat ourselves up, we cry out to God, and God responds, “I don’t see it. All I see is what I have made. A child made in my image and likeness that is pure love.”
I have a hard time seeing this, seeing past all the bs that makes up our stories, but I’m trying.
I’ve seen stories on TV, I think we all have, of people who survived immense tragedies and came to forgive the people who did it to them. Inspiring stories on Oprah. Those people know this. They are not limited, not defined by their story.
We all have them, we all choose how we respond to them. Are you letting your stories define you? I know I have done so, for a long time. I’m learning to let the stories go.