The narrative is the story we’ve grown up with, the stories in our culture, the stories in our families, and our own take on what has happened to us. The narrative is what we look for to be affirmed in the world as we want our lives to be. We are wholly dependent on this, our version of the story, to affirm that we are right, that we are protected by this narrative, and that we don’t have to entertain anyone else’s narrative or the truth.
The trouble with a narrative is that it is seldom true. For instance, most of us view our nation as we were taught in school: we’re the “good guys” of this world. We haven’t done any wrong to anyone. “George Washington never told a lie,” and so on. Let’s look at we’re the “good guys.” We took the lands from the Native Americans. We enslaved 4 million people until the Civil War. We have lynched Black folks without any semblance of trial—again the narrative! We still discriminate against people of color in jobs, housing, pay and access to good education and a real place in our country. We’ve fought wars that we should never have entered like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We are the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population—in Japan towards the end of World War II. And, unlike most other industrialized nations today, we neglect our poor, especially the children, not caring whether they have good access to housing, food, good education, and healthcare. The narrative for the poor is that they are too lazy to work, “welfare queens,” so they deserve how they live.
And what is today’s narrative in the United States? “Buy, buy, buy.” Earn as much as you can. Lift yourself up from poverty and trauma. The materialism that has transformed our country since the early 1980s has not brought any one peace or fulfillment, but has lined the pockets of the rich and the corporations. Materialism simply doesn’t provide any happiness or joy beyond a momentary pleasure and then it’s on to acquiring the next thing on the list. It has also divided us into mine and everyone else. We’ve lost all sense of community, that we’re all in this life, this nation, this world together. And that is our greatest loss, because this world—the whole universe– was created by God to be an interdependent system that feeds every plant and animal. This sense of community is most productive among human beings, regardless of the poverty or wealth of anyone. We are all in this together. We humans were all created in God’s image. The more we live like every neighbor, every townsman and woman, every citizen and resident of this country, every person in every other nation are all in this life together, the more we are acting out of God’s creation plan.
One of the easiest ways to recognize the narrative is to listen to politicians tell you or at least the ones they think will vote for them the stories that they want to hear. For example, for the Republican Party, the issue of abortion has been primary in elections since the 1980s and once it comes up in a campaign, no other issue is addressed. It appeals to Evangelical Christians, even though it is not mentioned in the Bible. I am pretty sure that Jesus would be against abortion, after all He was for life, but I also think that He would have been sensitive to the women seeking an abortion. He would have found out why and then helped her resolve the issue(s) that were causing her to seek one. He would have taken care of her and her fetus in any way that would have helped. I am sure the Democrats also have their narrative, but I haven’t figured that one out yet.
The narrow definition of who is my neighbor—again the narrative—only denies God’s purpose in His creation. Covid-19 and the Delta variant have demonstrated this truth in ways that we never saw before: we are all subject to the laws of nature; we are all, before any vaccination, subject to the coronavirus. No one was exempt. No one was free to do whatever they wanted. This truth was reinforced by the Delta Variant: those who chose to not be vaccinated were most likely to get the disease in its worst possible form and to spread it. The effects of global warming are also affecting every single person on this planet—all of God’s children. We are all on this earth, in this life together. How are we to learn to live with and for each other in our country and in the world?
Who did Jesus say our neighbor was? In the Parable about the Good Samaritan, Jesus defined our neighbor as anyone in need. The Samaritans, half-Jew and half-Gentile, were hated by the Jews. And yet, after the rabbi and the priest passed by the man who had been attacked by robbers; it was the Samaritan who saw the man’s need and went out of his way to help the man [Luke 10:25-37].
If we stick to the truth about ourselves, our neighbors, our nation and let the need for a narrative die out, we will live in love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and humility—all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We will find our purpose and revel in pursuing it. We will do exactly what God is asking of us. How fulfilling that will be!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I now living in the truth about me, my life, and everything I know? Or do I much prefer the narrative which keeps me right where I want to be? What would it take for me to cling to the truth? To grow into the life I was created to live? To be a follower of Jesus Christ?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live in the truth, who no longer live in the world’s take on how we should live our lives. May we be true to God, to ourselves and to our neighbors.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.com.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.