The other day I ran across an old photo of me taken when I was in my early thirties. I stopped and really looked at it and thought how stunning I looked, and then those old thoughts in my head began to tell me that I was not stunning! I studied counseling for a number of years and one of the best tools to utilize in dealing with people’s life stories is reframing their story to change the narrative in their mind. It is not rewriting history rather it is looking at misconceptions in their belief and helping them to see a perspective that is more truthful. Let me give you an example from my own life. I was married for thirty-five years to a man from another country who became an American citizen long after we were married. But my story begins long before I met this man.
As a child I was the youngest of three. My sister was ten years old when I was born and she never wanted me to be a part of her world. My brother was two and a half years old when I was born and he and I were very close and yet in today’s standard one could say he was abusive to me. Now you have to understand that when I was a child the parenting rules were much different from now. We were playing outside and away from the watchful eye of adults a lot more than children today. My brother was hyperactive compared to today’s standard and he was constantly on the go. He would make fun of me for being slower than him and fatter than he was and I was belittled a lot by him through name calling. To be honest I was also a brat to him but I did so as a means of defending myself. Still, the image in my perception of myself was formulated by my older siblings and what they thought of me. They thought I was a pain to be around, fat, ugly, too talkative, and dumb. Life went on and I went on to meet someone from another country who said that he loved me and I had no reason to doubt him.
After I married the man I loved I would often find situations in which I felt that he did not understand my culture, the American way to handle situations or do things. I would spend much of my time explaining to him how things worked, and how to get along with others in my society and culture. For instance, early in our marriage he was working as a house painter and would be visited at the various houses he was painting by a single Mom who just wanted to come and talk to him because he was so easy to talk to. I explained to him that in my culture married men do not encourage single Mom’s to come visit them on their job site and encouraged him to ask her politely not to follow him around anymore. I never really knew if he took my advice. Another time I had to explain things to him was when he was in college and started leaving his wedding ring at home rather than wearing it to class. I explained that a married man with two children in my society and culture would normally never leave his wedding ring at home but would wear it proudly and I insisted that he do so. He was wearing it when he left our home and when he returned however I have no idea if he wore it all day! It was quite common for such situations to arise and I would explain the proper way of doing things. There were other times that he would come and ask me if something was considered normal in my culture and I would evaluate the situation and explain it to him.
When I saw this photo of me in my early thirties I thought of what was going on in my life at that time. I was the Mother of three children and I was attending college at night while my husband was also attending graduate college in the daytime. I was really busy and working out on a treadmill as well. I felt good and I looked good. I also was constantly being told by my husband that I needed to stay at home rather than go to college. I was strong and yet I was also weak. The story in my head was that I was still not worthy, that I was going to fail, and that I was not being a good wife or mother. I was actually an A student but I felt like I was a failure and I was fighting so hard to prove to myself that I was not a failure. The story in my head was that I was not pretty, not a good enough wife, not a good enough Mom, and not a good enough person. The story in my head was that I was a failure and would always be a failure. It didn’t really matter what I wanted and the fight was against what I wanted and what my husband wanted, and he wanted me back inside my box where he was in total control of me. I fell ill, severely ill, and the story in my head came true, I was a failure. So I stayed inside the box for years.
As I looked at the photo, I had a moment of truth. I was not the one who for thirty-five years was constantly pushing the bounds of normal married life. I was not the one who made choices that bordered on sin. I was not the one who crossed the line into sin. I was not the one who walked away from God and from family and from marriage. I was not the failure. That moment of truth was the beginning of the reframing of my story that has been in my head for so long and I have believed for so long. I don’t know what God has in store for me but I am so thankful for the truth that has been flooding into my head and my heart.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36, (New International Version or NIV).
It is amazing how much we need to hear truth, the truth that can only come from God. Jesus understood how our minds work. We choose to see and believe what we choose to see. We are blinded by our own belief system at times. I was blind all these years to the truth and I believed many lies. It took time to see and hear the truth and every person that contributed to the lies I believed have all gone from my life, some have died and others walked away. It is time for me to reframe my story. It is time for me to acknowledge the truth and see how I became a slave to sin and to the sins of others. I am free indeed!
So what is the truth about me? I am worthy of God’s love and because of that love-relationship I can love myself and see real truth. I see now that I am not dumb, not stupid, not a pain to be around, but I am still fat and that’s the truth! I am beautiful and grow more beautiful every day even though I grow older and grayer and have age spots and wrinkles. My soul is growing older and wiser and more beautiful each moment and that is what really matters. I am not a failure because I am loved and cared for by the King of Glory!
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:29-31, (NIV).
Isn’t it time for you to begin to reframe the story in your head about yourself? Isn’t it time to stop believing the lies of others? Isn’t it time to stop being a slave to your sin and the sins of others? Speak truth into your mind and let Jesus, the Truth and the Light, show you who you really are in Christ!