Who am I in the Story of God?
Humans want to be liked. We crave approval and acceptance and affection. We’re wired to live on it! When we don’t get it from the intended source, we will fashion all sorts of ways to scavenge it for ourselves.
We will set incredible expectations on the people around us — we force them to be responsible for our happiness, our emotional balance. We will suck their life away in order to keep ourselves afloat.
If our inner narrative is typically positive, we will only hear voices that agree with what we already think of ourselves. If our inner narrative is typically negative, we will scramble and search for ways to silence it or deny it or numb ourselves to its clawing and shrieking attacks. Violence, euphoria, sexual involvement, drug abuse.
So how do we respond when we come to the Story of God? I’ve found that I seem to cast myself in the hero role more often than not. I’m Abraham, not Lot. Joseph, not Reuben or Simeon. I’m Daniel, not Nebuchadnezzar.
Patrick Mead recently preached on Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the three Hebrew slaves of Nebuchadnezzar. You more likely know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now think: how many times have you heard that story? Whose perspective do you hear it FROM? Of course, the down-trodden but ever-faithful Israelites!
I’ve written before about my experience reading Luke 15: how I’ve always cast myself as either a disciple of Jesus or the prodigal son.
As Jules Winfield might say: That stuff ain’t the truth. Because I’m not faithful – I bow down every day. And if I’m a disciple, I’m the most embarrassing excuse for a disciple I’ve ever met.
No, the truth Patrick shared with me is this: WE are Nebuchadnezzar! We’re the ones being challenged by the witness of YHWH’s faithful remnant. We bow down all the time, and what’s worse, we make other people bow down too. And Luke 15? We’re not any of the characters in any of Jesus’ stories! We’re the Pharisees attacking him because he eats with people we don’t like.
Scripture is meant to CHALLENGE our self-image! Even more, Scripture is meant to challenge the self-image of our communities. When we read it in self-affirming and self-actuating ways, we dishonor the mission of God — to be known as YHWH, the unique and universal Creator-Redeemer-Lover-Savior. Let us stand courageously and withut flinching, let Scripture challenge us and tell us the truth about ourselves. Then we will know how badly we need God’s grace, just how much grace God makes available, and how badly the people around us need us to share the grace we receive. “Freely you have received; freely give.”
in HIS love,
PS – Here’s the story of Jules Winfield, the introspective hit man.
Jules, pointing a .45 automatic at Ringo’s face: Wanna know what I’m buyin’ Ringo?
Ringo, a small-time thief having a VERY bad day: What?
J: Your life. I’m givin’ you that money so I don’t hafta kill your a$$. You read the Bible?
R: Not regularly.
J: There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17 “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.” I been sayin’ that #$%! for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your @$$. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a #$%^&$#%#$%% ‘fore you popped a cap in his @$$. But I saw some $%^& this mornin’ made me think twice. Now I’m thinkin’, it could mean:
You’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. .45 here, he’s the shepherd protecting
my righteous @$$ in the valley of darkness.
Or it could be you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that.
But that $%^* ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m
tryin’. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.