You Are A Story – Micaiah Morgan
Within the enormity of chaos and disruption in regard to the 2020 pandemic, the three most profound questions were brought to my attention as I began to give myself permission to understand both the shattering of my own being and the wholeness that I deeply longed for:
Who are you?
Where have you come from?
Where are you going?
These three questions were brought to my attention when I sat at my desk one evening, watching psychologist and therapist Dr. Dan Allender give a talk on the topic of “story.” The idea that we are not just human beings with memory and experiences, but a story. We carry in our hearts so many moments in our lifetime that are marked by joy, wonder, suffering, and tragedy.
In Genesis 16, Allender pointed me to the story of Hagar, an Egyptian slave who was owned and kept by the very founders of our faith: Abram and Sarai. For so many years, I would simply graze through these chapters of the book of Genesis, not letting myself come to terms with the sorrow, tragedy, and brokenness of Hagar’s own life. Abram is promised by God that he and Sarai – even in the struggle of their old age – would give birth to a great nation. “And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Genesis 15:4-5 esv).
However, we learn one more chapter later that Sarai is barren, and because of this, she allows Abram to sleep with their servant. When Hagar conceives, however, conflict ensues, and a few verses later after being abused and mistreated by Sarai, she flees into the desert. “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’” (Genesis 16:7-8a ESV).
Three questions hold three important principles. Principles that I have only begun to wrestle and appreciate. In truth, they have all carried with them a sense of heartbreak and sorrow, but they also have led me closer into the embrace of Jesus. An invitation is offered that carries both the importance of kindness and curiosity in the process of learning our story.
The first principle I would elaborate on is in reference to our story. Your story. Who are you, and how have you come to terms with naming the particularities of your identity?
This consists of the everyday truths that you hold true about yourself. It covers how you see goodness, joy, kindness, and your own uniqueness. However, it also includes how you see your frailty and humanity. Are you filled with self-contempt? How do you treat yourself when you make mistakes? Do you call yourself cruel names or condemn yourself over and over again when you fail? How do you treat others? When they fail, do you show patience, or do you roar with words that hold condemnation?
The everyday life we connect with brings us back to how we see ourselves and how we see others around us. We will either embrace the good or sink into the mire of evil’s deceptions. In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us that we have obtained a great inheritance once we are saved and have placed our trust in Jesus.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). We are all in a metamorphosis. A process of change and sanctification that continues day by day. We have put on the new self, which is written in Colossians 3. A new identity that is being renewed and made more and more like Christ.
What good truth have you come to terms with that encourages you? In opposition, what lies have you believed about yourself that are simply not true at all? When you look at the ways in which your identity is revealed in light of your rescue and adoption, has it changed you? In the very first part of Ephesians 1, it declares we have been given spiritual blessings (1:3), we have been chosen before the creation of the world (1:4), we have been adopted into a kingdom that has no end (1:5), and we have redemption and forgiveness because of what Christ Jesus has accomplished for us (1:6).
Friend, who are you and how often have you declared these truths to yourself? As you fight so many battles in your mind, have you made it known to the enemy that your sins have been forgiven? Have you declared to the enemy your place in the kingdom of God?
The second principle I need to highlight is in reference to your own back story. Where have you come from? The theme of God’s pursuit of man is not to condemn us when we find ourselves in the madness of our deepest struggles and darkest roots. What we see in the scriptures is God’s immense kindness and curiosity as he examines one’s broken and sinful life. In 2020, I read what I may describe as the bravest and most honest book ever written that explored the struggle of sexual brokenness. Author Jay Stringer (LMHC & MDiv) writes, “If you want to understand why you are addicted to something, you have to understand the conditions that keep your addiction in place” (“Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our way to Healing”).
The great desire for freedom from sin in my own life has been the song of my heart. I long to be forever free from any sinful struggles, habits, and issues. Recently, I wrote down six questions to help me process the particularities of my own story, and I hope soon these same questions will help people address with honesty how their past has been a primary influencer in their present-day sinful battles, addictions, and relational conflicts.
How have you been oppressed?
What are your wounds?
What things have enslaved you?
What freedom do you long for?
How has evil assaulted you?
Have you lamented?
These questions came to my mind when I spent time to focus on Isaiah 61. The writer of this beautiful passage says this:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:1-4 ESV).
Until we name what has been a part of our story, we will continue to live in the devastations of unaddressed pain, denial, and wounds that will continue to enslave us, imprison us, and keep us from engaging our true freedom. The core theme of this passage does not put its emphasis primarily on our salvation. As you read it, it addresses the reality of harm, wounds, and the sorrows that have kept us wide awake at night. The purpose of our engagement with the things that we have suffered is the invitation to lament. This is the work that Christ engaged with as he set foot on earth, quoting this very same passage in reference to himself in Luke 4.
Jesus later on preaches:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden in light” (Matthew 11:28-30 esv).
As I began to engage with more details on the reality of God’s love and the intentional questions he asks us, I began to find that he doesn’t bring judgment on our grieving, nor does he stand by the threshold of the door with impatience all over his face ordering us to seek him. God’s invitation for us is to engage with the healing of our wounds, to embrace his truth of who we actually are, and to accept the opportunity to co-write our story with him on the adventure he has planned. A road to healing, restoration, wholeness, and a pathway to freedom from all of the things that enslave us.
The third and final principle I want to address is where we are going in our story. What are we hoping to find, and how can our discovery of personal restoration offer us the opportunities to help others on their own road to freedom?
The beautiful sight of a garden is such a wonder to look at. In March of 2020, as the news of the pandemic began to promote a sense of fear within the walls of my heart and mind, I took time away to visit my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. When I arrived, she said she wanted to show me a special place not too far from her home: Bok Tower. A beautiful stretch of property filled with majestic-looking gardens of all sorts of color and hundreds of different flowers. I never wanted to invest time in becoming a botanist or work at a plant nursery, but as I walked around the beautiful landscape, I remember feeling rested and at peace.
Looking at all the flowers made me think of what wholeness is. Seeds are planted in the dirt and rich soil, and when everything blooms, it looks fiercely miraculous. In the same way, it’s an illustration of what healing can bring to us and to each other. It’s how the kingdom grows and flourishes. A place where stories are honored with great empathy. A kingdom where rest is promised to us who have endured the chaos and harm of this world.
Perhaps you have lived with the struggle of particular unwanted behaviors and have tried everything to keep yourself from failing. You long to see your life as an illustration of a garden, but after every failed attempt, shame takes root and harvests thorns and weeds. We will only be repeating our past in our present if we don’t take the time to allow ourselves to heal from our past.
What are your former devastations? Was it the time of your humiliation as a seventh-grader in the boys’ or girls’ locker room? The time when your father came home with anger and tried to beat you? Was it when you were asked to take part in something that brought you immense shame? The time when you felt alone in your pain as you were bullied as a middle schooler or high school student?
The endless noise of this world is a barrier between us and our freedom that longs to greet us. The grace of God beckons us to meet him where our hearts need immense restoration. A generous and kind offer that we often dismiss and ignore for the sake of religious conundrums, busy time-consuming schedules, or the fear of finding out what true freedom actually is.
As you and I wrestle with where we are going on this journey that has been set out for us, what are we hoping for? What does our sense of freedom look like? What things in your past keep you from seeking and enjoying the presence of God and experiencing true healing?
As a songwriter, so much of my time in the craftsmanship of creating art and lyrics is in the engagement of story. Allowing myself to come before God, sometimes even in the mourning of my tears, to express the depths of my dried up, broken heart to him.
What is the invitation for us as believers? To engage our story so that we may help others find healing of their own. The world is marred and fragmented with the debris and ruins of sin. Evil has assaulted us in so many particular ways. Ways that have caused a great disruption in our wholeness, scattering it, and leaving us in our pieces. God’s intent for you is to put those pieces together. To integrate all brokenness into wholeness once more. To heal and restore, making you fully alive and helping you become what you were created for. Building a kingdom with God with all of your uniqueness, talent, and gifts.
Stringer, Jay. Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our way to Healing. Navpress. 2018.