For a vocation that is supposed to require me to minister to hurting people, I am also required to do an enormous amount of self-reflection. And as a result I am now writing about myself, writing about myself.
I was asked to write a personal mythology. Because the word mythology is used, I’m writing about myself in the third person for the assignment.
The assignment did not specify for me to write in third person, but I am choosing to because I write too much about myself outside of my job. So I thought as a creative exercise I would try to step back and summarize my life in less than three pages by stepping outside of myself.
I wouldn’t say it is challenging , but I will say its tiring. It’s tiring because I spend so much time visiting my past trying to work through it and workshop it, only to keep realizing I can’t change it. I wonder what God thinks when we keep revisiting old things. I wonder what people are like who never have time to revisit the past and are solely fixed on their future.
I want to be that way, but I don’t think the process I have signed up for will let me.
For me, life is not laid out in stages of boxes that I can check, only to never look at again. Even if the seasons have past, the experiences and lack of answers seem to keep looking for closure. Which, I think is what death is about.
Scripture says in John 12:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
One of my goals for the first 3 months of this residency is to be comfortable with things that die, specifically become comfortable being in the room with death.
Well in part simply because I have to. I don’t think I can work day in and day out and once a week overnight at a hospital as a chaplain and avoid encountering this. But my goal is more than encountering it which is inevitable; my goal is to become okay with it while maintaining the confidence in Christ that it is not the end.
I want to become okay with it because notice what the Scripture says, “unless the gran falls in to the earth and dies; it remains alone.” Doesn’t that portion of statement fascinate you? I don’t want to be alone. I don’t even want to be alone in my apartment (Just get a cat already).
Jesus is announcing that there is so much in my life, in my desire, even in my “innocence”, in this world that must be subjected to a dying, in order to bear much fruit. In order for me to find life and love and genuine friendship and fullness of life, I like Jesus, must enter that fullness of life through death.
Well that’s nice, but what in heaven does it mean when a Christian says some whacked out jargon, “die to yourself,” “be dead to sin.” Because in theory I get it, but if something dies, isn’t their finality? Isn’t their loss? Isn’t their ending? If I have died to something how in the world does the pain, the sin, the stubborn refusal keep coming back?
Does the apostle Paul really mean it when he says he dies daily and exhorts us to do the same? Unfortunately, yes, it means I have to suffer loss and ending, and taking the life out of the things that would otherwise kill my love for God and others.
You and I must do this daily with our greatest temptations and fears because the life available on the other side is far more abundant. I know this in part from experience, but I also know because of this internal hope that has gripped me. There must be something better than the fading false promises of the temporal.
The temporal just can’t be it because Scripture also declares that God has set eternity within our hearts. That is why the closer we get to death, the more aware we should become of the eternal but also the present.
How does any of this help you or I write about ourselves?
I think it simply helps us to write or tell our stories with hope. When you have surrendered the false myth that death leaves a permanent sting, I think we are free to embrace with confidence the promise of life through Christ to give us and others something worth reading and remembering.
Then once you write about yourself have the courage to let others read you. You might give them courage to find fullness of life and the courage to let something die that needs to so it doesn’t remain alone.