The narrative is the story we’ve each 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 to be affirmed in the world, in ourselves. We are wholly dependent on this, our version of the story, to affirm that we are right, that we are protected, and that we don’t have to entertain anyone else’s narrative. The narrative is always an outer orientation, not from a connection to our deepest, most-connected-to-God selves. Here are some examples of a narrative:
“I shouldn’t have to……”
“Darn it, that’s not the way it should be….”
And on and on.
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 the “good guys.”
We took the lands of the Native People who lived here for ages before the white people came.
We enslaved 4 million people until the Civil War.
We have lynched Black folks without any semblance of trial.
We still discriminate against people of color in jobs, housing, pay and access to good education and a real place in our country.
We have fought wars that we should never have entered in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We are the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population—in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 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, education, and healthcare.
And what is the dominant narrative in the United States today? Buy, buy, buy. Earn as much as you can. Lift yourself up from poverty and trauma. Set your own goals and make them happen. The materialism that has defined 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 momentary pleasure and then it’s on to acquiring the next thing on our list and then the next. It has also divided us into those whom I like and love—mine–and everyone else.
We’ve lost all sense of community, that we’re all in this life, even 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, supports every planet and star. This sense of community is most productive among human beings, regardless of the poverty or wealth of anyone. We’re all in this together. We humans were all created in God’s image. The more we treat everyone like a deserving child of God–every neighbor, every townsman and woman, every citizen and resident of this country, every person in every other nation, the more we are acting out of God’s creation plan and His purpose for each of us. It is why He made all of us human beings in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).
I had this epiphany one morning a few weeks ago after I had dropped off my grandson at school and I was returning home to write. I started to complain about something—I don’t remember what—and suddenly I realized that my complaints—any and all of them—are a sure sign of the narrative at work in me! If we truly live in God’s kingdom and have surrendered ourselves to God, then God takes care of everything we need and even the direction we need to go in, so there is nothing to complain about. It’s when we’ve stepped out of His service, or perhaps never lived in His kingdom here on earth, and gone back to our own agendas that we have chosen the narrative once again. Gratitude for all that is and has been in our lives, the great things and people, and the challenges, is a sure sign that we are steeped in our devotion to God.
Let us live in the truth as Jesus taught, not in the worldly narrative that we have held onto throughout our days. Here are only three of many passages in the Bible [NIV] that speak of the living in the truth:
“Then you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:32]
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” [John 16:13]
We either live in the kingdom or the world, in the truth or in the narrative. So, let us choose the truth in all that we do and discard the narrative in favor of the truth. How much freer and more fulfilled we will be! Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I aware at all of how much the narrative influences my decisions, my day-to-day activities? Have I ever lived in the kingdom of God? What would I have to give up to embrace all that God has in store for me? Am I ready to go beyond the narrative to live in the truth as Christ taught?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who no longer live in the narrative-created world and who now live in the kingdom of God. May we be true to our God and to our deeper selves.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 10.18.21’s is entitled “Grounding Ourselves in Jesus Christ.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.