The Stories We Tell Ourselves – An Excerpt from the Book Embracing Brokenness

“We are called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but our own vulnerable self.”[i] Henri J.M. Nouwen

It was a magnificent day on the Chesapeake Bay overlooking the C&D Canal at one of our favorite spots – Schaefer’s Canal House. We come here often, not only to write but to relax – taking in the scents and the sounds of the boats and ripples from the tiny waves lapping against the bulkhead. A no-wake zone.

Colleen and I were enjoying a day away from the grind – tipping our glass to the greatness of God. Taking in the sites. People watching has to be the greatest pastime on the planet. We sit and invent stories around the lives of everyone we target as interesting. Try it some time. It’s a lot of fun. The stories we tell ourselves about the lives of others are fascinating. They provide glimpses into the innermost being of our own selves and the stereotypes we’ve come to accept.

We think we know. But do we really? This day we saw a steel drum band with a little reggae mix. Kind of that Bob Marley vibe. You know the stereotype. See what I mean? I do like the music. It set the atmosphere overlooking the water with a crowd of eclectic people from all walks of life. Some hovered around the bar drinking their favorite libation and eating the best seafood around. Then there’s the captains and their yachts rolling in and out, tying up for lunch and imbibing a bit themselves. A Mom, Dad, and a couple of kids celebrating Father’s Day. Table after table, chair after chair of some of the most interesting stories we could invent. I wonder how many of the stories fit the person and how each would feel about our interpretation of their life circumstances. We might tick off a few of them and others might tell us – “if only – that would be awesome.”

So herein lies the million-dollar question. What are we missing in this search for who we are? Or maybe we don’t want to be known. Is this possible? Is there a deep-rooted desire to cover up the person we really are in favor of the one we’d like others to believe we are? Of course, there is. We “pose” from the day we discover that it draws attention and acceptance. Admiration or jealousy. Either one is fine as long as we remain significant or loved or cherished in some unique way. As for all the people on the dock that day it was fascinating to see how important it was for many to be noticed, including myself, truth be told. I was dressed nice – matching white polo shirt with my white plaid shorts. Really cool Kenneth Cole flip-flops. Even had on my Ralph Lauren underwear and undershirt. And Ray-Ban sunglasses to top off the fashion statement. Striding off to our table, once our name was called, making sure my strides were perfectly timed with all the swag I could muster. Don’t tell me you haven’t done the same. So why do you think we do that? Do we just want to be noticed – believed to be special?

Our conflict lies in the knowledge that being last is what we’re called to be – not first. The Bible tells us in Matthew 19:29,30 after Jesus has spoken to the rich young ruler about the necessity to sell everything and follow Him if he sought eternal life. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (ESV).

So, what does it mean to be last first? Simple, just give up all the stuff – figuratively speaking. Lay it down for Him. Being known means not being known – for the posers we are. Being esteemed and important in this world sacrifices everything for all the wrong reasons. Sure, it feels good to be noticed but it feels better to be free from the bondage that’s carried along with it.


[i] Henri J.M. Nouwen “In the Name of Jesus”



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