Friday, January 26, 2007

Everyone has a story

Youssef and I just had a long conversation that opened my eyes to understanding other people. Understanding might not be the right word… being aware of another persons story, and also how my story can bump against other peoples or how I can learn to align myself with another person’s story. I am admittedly very deficient in the area of communicating, listening, and especially conversing with people that I don’t know very well. I don’t take cues very well… they aren’t interested in what I’m talking about and inevitably when I’m with people that don’t know me very well I tend to panic and continue talking about the thing that they aren’t really wanting to hear. I’m like the commercial… or telemart that interrupts dinner or a favorite movie in other peoples story. Now if you happen to be one of the very few who aren’t annoyed when I talk to you (or are actually interested in what ever I happen to post on this blog) that is most likely not because I’M good at communicating, but rather you are one of those generous people who can align your story with someone else’s and in this case have aligned yours with mine for the moment.
Youssef on the other hand has a great gift in seeing another persons story, communicating, listening, and so forth. Not that he didn’t work at it of course. Ever since we were first married I felt… I don’t know how to put it… a freedom. All of a sudden I wasn’t made to feel like I was needing to be a certain way to fit in with the story that my parents had for me, or the story my friends saw me in. Think of this, have you ever been around an old time friend and even though you are many years older and have changed a lot you find yourself acting like the same stupid kid they knew you as? I have to a certain extent, and I think it’s because that’s what they expected. It sounds sort of dumb, but if you aren’t clear about the story that you yourself are in then their stronger sense of you as a character can change how you might act.
How much harder is it for a parent to realize that God has a certain story for their child… that their child is the hero or heroin in their own story that might not (most likely doesn’t) fit in with the story their parents have mapped out. Even if they don’t realize they are expecting something from their child… they say that he or she can be what ever they want to be, but all growing up they saw him trying to do certain things and failing. When she was 13 she wanted to be a famous swimmer and almost drowned after that the parents discouraged her from swimming (I hate to swim by-the-way I’m just making this part up). I have some ideas of what Lily might like to do… mostly because I think about what I wished I had of done when I was young, but I need to keep reminding myself that she is the heroin in her own story and I can be the bad guy that discourages her from her dream or maybe pushes her into my dream… or I could be a good guy in her story and teach her to be independent from me, to trust God with her life, and encourage her to reach for the desires of her heart.

When I was thinking of people in their own stories and how that might look I noticed something, you can’t really judge them the same way. Your evaluation of that person was based on your own story before… they were mean to you so they were marked with an X and labeled a “bad guy” in your story. They disciplined their children in a way that you wouldn’t have chosen to do. But… I can no longer judge them according to my story when I realize that they are in their own. My rules don’t apply to them. God’s rules still do, yes, and another person might be sinning in a certain way, BUT according to God’s story we are ALL in sin until He makes us part of His story. How can we judge another person when we realize that?

I’ve been wondering something for a while… about different Christian denominations… how can any one totally be perfectly correct in it’s interpretation of scripture? Each one might say that they are the closest to perfect that they can come, but how do we know that? How could any person be that close to perfectly understanding what the Bible says? Isn’t it sad that more Christians from different denominations can’t come together and discuss the Bible and learn from each other? Not to try and agree about miner things and hash out each verse, but to get different perspectives and actually listen to what other people say so that they all can come to know God better.

How do you align yourself with another persons story? Courtesy. Old fashioned, but true. Opening a door for someone. Saying please and thank you. Smiling at that barrista and actually tipping him (for us, our grocery list was based on Youssef tips for the week, it really can be a big deal to tip someone… though Youssef said that they never minded when someone didn’t tip them. It was annoying when people made excuses about why they couldn’t tip them or especially if they were just rude.) It makes sense that courtesy and kindness would align us with another persons story when you think of the “good guy” and “bad guy” in stories. If a cashier is rude to you, might you tend to label them in your mind as a bad guy? It makes sense to me anyway. And listening… wow.. Such a big thing to actually listen to what someone says and not be thinking about what you are going to say next to promote your own story, but to actually listen to theirs… to try to align yours with them… then help them go forward in their own plot (so to speak).

I realized tonight while Youssef and I were talking that the times when I’ve been annoyed at him are mostly because I’m expecting something from him. I see him as the husband of the heroin in my story and when he doesn’t do something that I assume he should know to do or whatever then it irritates me because my story got a bit messed up. The marriages that are the strongest are those that share parts of their stories… where the husband and wife let their plots weave in and out of each other, and later allow their children’s stories to weave and move in and out along side theirs.

We do get so upset when our story takes a turn that we don’t expect don’t we? God really likes to do that to us too. Just when we know where we want to be He changes our course, but… that’s not a bad thing. All really good stories have some sort of twist or change. Bilbo wouldn’t have wanted to be next to a dragon when we first meet him in the Hobbit, but if Gandalf hadn’t introduced him to the dwarfs and changed his life there wouldn’t have been a story at all.


Youssef Sleiman said...

I wonder--to anyone else who reads this: what is a meta-narrative?
I've heard the term a couple of times. Seems that it would fit in here.

To throw a monkey-wrench in a thought-process I helped start, what does it mean that we try to work with a person's story--to be their good guys--while we accept that God, an ultimate good guy, does not lend half the respect to the same person's story? In other words, why do we try to tolerate what God occasionally chooses to disrupt?

Carla Harris said...

I really enjoyed this!