“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story… leave.”
When I heard a podcast host drop this quote by Mull Williams recently, my brain exploded. In just one sentence, he managed to offer a simple anecdote for the grand mystery and cosmic struggle of my life—trying to escape the false narratives in my head.
I don’t know what your narratives are, but I know we all have them. We’re all fraught with lies that try to make sense of the broken places inside us. They try to replace lack with something because emptiness always demands to be filled. Only in the last year have I actively worked (harder than ever) to replace these false narratives with better stories. With truth. Let me go first and share some of the key narratives that are pretty deeply-rooted in my own head and heart:
- You will never be chosen
- You don’t belong
- You’re too emotional
- There’s something inherently wrong with you
- You’ll never finish your book
- You’ll always be the friend, but never the life partner
- Resign from trying to find answers to your physical ailments
- Nobody understands you
Yikes. No wonder escapism is so attractive when your brain is bombarding you with such hopeless thoughts.
For a long time, I’ve been fascinated with the New Testament’s idea of abundant life. Mainly, because I don’t understand it. This morning, our She Reads Truth team had a vision meeting for the Lent 2020 study plan, and I brought up the idea of fasting versus feasting. Or, really, lack versus abundance. Somehow, we as humans can feel both simultaneously. During his time on earth, Christ told his people that He was the gate to life; and although thieves come to steal, kill, and destroy, He came to bring us life in abundance (John 10:7-10). Not just enough… more than enough. But the last time I checked, most people (including myself) don’t feel like they’re living a life flowing with this type of wholeness.
My pastor back home says that the way of Jesus—the gospel—is either for our every day lives or nothing at all. It either transforms us and is the key to human flourishing within the kingdom, or it’s useless. Sobering, I know.
Last summer, I got my first tattoo with the helpful enthusiasm of my friend Rose. It’s one of the most spontaneous decisions I’ve ever made, yet I’ve never regretted it for a second. On my left forearm is the word sehnsucht. In its simplest sense, it’s the German word for “longing.” In its most complex, the “longing or desire for beauty, the transcendent or the sense of separation to that which is desired” which cannot be quenched in this life. In other words, it’s the sense that there must be an object outside this world that can satisfy that inconsolable longing. The reason I chose to burn this word into my skin is two-fold: 1) to affirm that it’s normal to feel this, and 2) to remind myself of Romans 8—that, even as we groan with pain and restlessness, “creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (21).
If my pastor was right when he said the gospel is either for our every day or for nothing at all, then there has to be something unique about the way of Jesus that gives us access to a new way of living. But, you see, if Christians believe they live in the kingdom tension of “already, not yet,” then abundant life will always have the dark undertones of human brokenness until the world to come is fully materialized. True wholeness can’t exist within brokenness. But abundance is that thin space where eternity is being ushered into our here and now and we’re no longer enslaved to the rules of this world but are being set free. One nerve and ligament at a time.
After hearing that Mull Williams quote, I’ve started challenging the narratives in my head. Your false story doesn’t have to control you. It isn’t the yellow brick road, and although your shoes may point you in that direction, they don’t have to take you there no matter how much the road glitters.
Leave. Just leave.
As a Christian, I want to live from a place of abundance, not scarcity. Most days, I don’t know how to cope with the aching chasm inside me, but then I glance down at my forearm and see sehnsucht inscribed in my own handwriting. As long as I call this fallen human body home, there is no escaping this ache, and my personality is really good at noticing what’s lacking instead of what’s there. But I do have a choice: stay paralyzed in bondage to lies—or embrace a truer narrative that says we have a wellspring of life within our souls, growing wider and wider each day. Together, let’s escape those inhospitable stories inside our heads and take refuge in the gospel. Today, we ache. Today, we hurt. But the lies that plague us can’t steal our hope without our permission. And if we really believe in Jesus, the one thing we cannot let go of is this Hope.
. . .
Bailey Gillespie is a writer originally from California who now lives in Music City (Nashville, TN). She loves exploring the intersection of wellness, art, and faith and encouraging others in their journey toward wholeness. Her writing has appeared on She Reads Truth, Foundling House, and The Rabbit Room. Read more at baileygillespie.com or follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.