I am a writer. And so are you.
I once read a Jeff Goins post about how declaring yourself as a writer is a lot different than saying that you “like to write” or “occasionally write some things.” By naming ourselves as writers we “convince ourselves that we have the right to pick up the pen.”
And it’s not just the pen to paper writer. We all write narratives in our heads and hearts about who we are and what we have to offer.
We have lines that we tell ourselves, and we have stories that we tell others. Many times these lines we repeat to ourselves don’t match the stories we present on the outside. We ask ourselves quietly, “Who am I?” while telling the world, “This is who I am, yet don’t try to put me in a box!” These stories we tell are like polishing silver, trying to rub away the tarnish.
Yet what if we explored the story behind the story? What if we allowed others to see what we are writing on our hearts?
This isn’t a think happy, be happy philosophy. It’s a dig deeper exploration of who you say that you are. It’s being able to confidently say “This is who I am” while simultaneously sharing the internal struggle of claiming this identity.
An unexpected example of this confident vulnerability was in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Advice for a Happy Life.” Charles Murray writes:
“Now that we’re alone, here’s where a lot of you stand when it comes to religion: It isn’t for you. You don’t mind if other people are devout, but you don’t get it. Smart people don’t believe that stuff anymore.
I can be sure that is what many of you think because your generation of high-IQ, college-educated young people, like mine 50 years ago, has been as thoroughly socialized to be secular as your counterparts in preceding generations were socialized to be devout… By socialized, I don’t mean that you studied theology under professors who persuaded you that Thomas Aquinas was wrong. You didn’t study theology at all. None of the professors you admired were religious. When the topic of religion came up, they treated it dismissively or as a subject of humor…
I am describing my own religious life from the time I went to Harvard until my late 40s. At that point, my wife, prompted by the birth of our first child, had found a religious tradition in which she was comfortable… I still describe myself as an agnostic, but my unbelief is getting shaky.
Taking religion seriously means work. If you’re waiting for a road-to-Damascus experience, you’re kidding yourself. Getting inside the wisdom of the great religions doesn’t happen by sitting on beaches, watching sunsets and waiting for enlightenment. It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree.
…The Sunday school stories I learned as a child bear no resemblance to Christianity taken seriously. You’ve got to grapple with the real thing.”
There’s no substitute for this grappling. Consider this story:
After Moses died, Joshua becomes the new leader of the Israelites and is immediately supposed to lead his people in battle across the Jordan River. I’m guessing that Joshua was not feeling like calling himself “a leader.” He probably wondered what his identity was and what he could put his confidence in during this huge task ahead. Then God repeats over and over to not be afraid. Joshua can call himself a leader because he is being led by God Himself:
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” -Joshua 1:5-8
Even Joshua needed to grapple with Scripture and meditate – deeply consider – its relevance and significance in his life. We often shy away from deeply thinking about difficult areas in our lives. It’s easier to quiet the narrative in our hearts and present a shiny story to the world.
But what is written on the tablet of your heart? As I’ve written before: My hope is that by letting others see the story behind the story that we can enter into more meaningful relationships. We can be confident in who we are because we know it’s a story still being written.