Last week was story week, and I was honored to share some of my story with you. Here, of course, and across the internet with my friends Sarah and Sarah. I have been humbled by your response.
The lingering question I think everyone has about their story, and I know I did for the longest time, is: How am I supposed to handle my story with grace? Or, more vaguely: What am I supposed to do with this thing? Can I even make sense of it?
There are maybe many answers to that question, and I will be the first to admit that in handling my own story, I have tried some big-ol' failures of ways to deal with everything. I have tried many different ways of handling my story, and I am sad to admit that many of them cause greater hurt coming out the other side of it. That's just how it is when a hurting heart is searching for something and isn't sure where it's going to end up.
But I've found one key that invites this measure of grace, and I think it's worth sharing.
Live as you dream.
Now, I don't traditionally put a lot of stock in dream analysis. There's a lot of hokey out there, and if you spend your days trying to figure out what your nights mean, then you're missing out on a lot of daylight. There is, however, one theory in dream analysis that I've found indispensably helpful to my waking life. Ready?
Everyone is you.
Some say the way to interpret your dream is to think that everyone in that scenario is you, or some facet of you. Something, maybe, you're afraid to face in you conscious mind and so you've portrayed it as this character.
I don't know about all that. What I do know is that there is absolute truth in this when I am awake. There is not one person I dislike in whom I am not disliking the same trait in myself. People who are loud grate against me...because I have known myself as too loud and agonized over finding my stillness. Then someone loud walks in, and I hate that in me, so I'm bothered by them. People who are arrogant. Or wasteful. Or selfish. Or irresponsible. It's not these people that I have a problem with, though it seems so on the surface. What I really have a problem with is these same areas in my own heart, memories maybe of when these things have negatively impacted my life, thoughts of times when I've acted in these ways or wanted to act in these ways and the knowledge of what that decision brought to bear.
The same is true, by the way, of anyone I like. People who work hard. I like them because that's a discipline I'm working every day to develop more in myself. People who give their undivided attention to things, and particularly to persons with whom they are interacting. I like these people, too, because that's another area I'm working to hone my skills in. What I really like in these people (and sorry, if you are one of these people I like) has less to do with who they are and more to do with what they inspire me to be, with what they draw out of me and allow me to embrace because I'm seeing that reflected and seeing that as worthy.
When you start to understand this, that everything you see in someone else - for the positive or the negative - is an aspect of yourself that you either like or dislike, you start to see others with a measure of grace. In a story like mine, that grace is redefining because there is no evil. There is no other. There is no "me" and "them." I can see their brokenness in the same way that I am seeing mine, and that allows me to extend grace to persons...and grace to story. Because it seems the most painful story has not been told by my heart or my worth or someone else's anger or someone's bitterness. Our stories are really only told by two things: brokenness and healing.
When you're able to see everyone in your life, and in your story, as some reflected facet of your own heart, you learn to identify with the brokenness, and you learn the meaning of grace. Does it excuse anything? No. Does it change anything? Not really. Does it forget? Nope. Does it forgive? It begins to. It begins forgiveness when you understand the tenderness your own brokenness thirsts for.
This is no more true than when you are able to find healing in your own heart, when you've worked through your story, and looking back, you see some other person's heart trapped in the same brokenness that your story created in you...their trapped heart has told a portion of your story....and you just ache for them. You simply ache over the brokenness.
Then you choose grace, which suddenly makes perfect sense and it doesn't seem so hard. It just seems so...necessary. And your story still sucks. And you're still not thrilled about it. And you still have work through it, but now there is grace.
And in the midst of grace, there is also love. Because somehow, you discover that whatever it is you like or dislike about someone, whatever it is you like or dislike about yourself as reflected in them, there's got to be room for love. You don't have to like somebody to love them.
But you do have to love them. Grace makes that possible.
So live as you dream. Remember that everyone you meet is you. (And everyone you meet is Jesus, but that's another theology for another day.)