“You will never live beyond the way that you see yourself.” — John Eldredge
There are these old stories about myself I carry around in my soul. I carry them like holy relics, like sacred articles that tell me where I come from, what has happened to me, and who I really am. I’ve carried them a very long time. I’ve used them to guide my life. They have been my personal holy writ, the internal sacred text that defines me.
Like a script, these stories have directed me to act out my life in a particular way. They have told me what I can and cannot do, where I can and cannot go, and who I can and cannot be. They have sealed me off from certain destinies, and forced me to experience certain others, many of which have been very painful and isolating for me.
I’ve known for a while now these stories are lies. They are false narratives, straight-jacket scripts, that were cast over my heart years ago like a mad wizard’s spell. For years I walked around as if in a dream, a subtle nightmare really, in which I believed debilitating falsehoods about who I was, what I was, and what was, or more often wasn’t, possible for my life. It was a delusion cast on my soul through a black dance between my wounding, my enemy, and my shame-ridden imagination. It became a prison that locked me away from my true self, and from my true life.
Thankfully, there came a day some years ago when I rose up and shook off the dream. I woke up. It’s odd to say it so mundanely as that, like I just decided to take off an old coat I had outgrown, for in reality that awakening was a long and protracted bloody battle inside me, and I would never have lived through it if not for God and the deep love of several great men and women in my life. But I did wake up. I did survive. I did shake off the spell, and came to my true self.
No, not came. Am coming. For ever since the day that spell was broken I have been asking God, my heart, and my life the same questions: If not that story, then what? If that is not who I am, then who am I really? If not that life, then what life is really mine?
I am uncovering, day by day, the answers to those questions. I’m grateful to say my life is taking on the shape of who and what I was always made to be, and the life I was made to live.
But it’s not there yet. It’s still in process, like a slow recovery after a bad break in the leg. I can walk now, but sometimes still with a limp. I can run now, too, but not far and not for long, though I am made for it.
I guess that’s why I still carry these old stories around with me. In the extreme discomfort of believing you are a runner who cannot yet run, these old stories, these prisons I once knew, provide a sickening sort of comfort for me. It’s easier, so much easier, to fall back into believing the old lies about myself than to stand steadfast in the truth, because to stand there means I have to fight for it. I have to fight for that which is already mine.
It’s just like Joshua and the people of Israel when they passed through the Jordan at Kadesh-Barnea. God had already given them the Promised Land, a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey, as the Scripture tells it. But they had to fight for every inch of it. They had to put their foot down on every patch of earth and say This Is Mine, then live there and hold it from that moment on. That’s the weird thing, the unexpected thing, that comes with the True Story of who you are:
You have to fight to take hold of what is already yours.
This is the paradox of becoming, and why the old stories remain so seductive long after you have broken free of them. It may be a prison to live in those stories, but at least you don’t have to fight from in there. You don’t have to be courageous. It’s easy to hide.
Look, here’s the truth: To fight to take hold of who you really are is daunting for sure, but it is far from impossible. To live in the full freedom of your own true story, and the deep true identity of who God created you to be may be much harder than you imagined, and may take longer to attain than you had hoped. But that makes it no less beautiful or noble or worthy a cause, nor your own true heart any less worth fighting for to achieve it.
Your old stories cannot help you anymore. They do not serve you, not even for comfort. It’s time for you to let them go, to let them be dead and lifeless, as they are, to bury them, and choose instead to live your true life, which is to say to live in the fight.
Your true heart is singing. Can you hear it? Can you hear what it is saying to you?
Wake up and fight!
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” — Ayn Rand