I am excited to welcome Marc Alan Schelske to the blog today. We met through Michael Hyatt’s Platform launch team, and his words really encourage me. He writes about the intentional spiritual life at www.MarcAlanSchelske.com. You can follow him on Twitter here. He’s served as a pastor full-time for eighteen years, currently in Portland, Oregon, where he gets to encourage people in living the inside-out life following Jesus. He’s deep into a journey of emotional recovery after near-burn out, and is excited to share this discovery: You are a piece of art handmade by God, with a good and beautiful purpose to accomplish in the world.
Embrace Your Story?
Embrace your story. That’s what Tammy says to do. It’s right there in the header of her beautiful blog. She’s right. In an unexpected way, this advice is one of the cornerstones of living an impactful and intentional life.
Right now your story probably has a grip on you. When I use the word “story” here’s what I mean: Your story is comprised of all the events of your life that have happened to this point, combined with the meaning that you have made around those events.
This story plays itself out in your life over and over again. Here’s an example from my own life, to explain what I mean.
“Take Control, Don’t Feel Pain,” I thought.
My dad died in an accident when I was eleven. This unexpected trauma swept into my life with grave consequences. Not only did I lose my dad, but in many ways I lost my mother as she was caught up in her own grief. It became my role to hold things together. I cooked meals for my younger sister. I made sure we got to bed or to school. I became the “man of the house,” making sure that everything still worked. What I didn’t do was process the grief and anger that I felt.
That traumatic moment shaped me powerfully. I made meaning from it that went like this: Terrible things happen. Even the people most important can be taken away from you. But if I can be very good, and keep very good control, then terrible things might not happen. If I can hold on tight to every aspect of my life, I might not ever have to feel this way again.
This belief is ridiculous of course, but the meaning my eleven-year old self-created became deeply embedded in my heart. That story kept showing up in my life, for over thirty years.
When my mother remarried a man who was emotionally abusive, it became my role to take care of her and stick up to him. In college I was dating someone and it became clear that we were not a good match long-term. Just as I was about to end the relationship, her very best friend died, and it became my role to support and care for her through months of grief.
This story even shaped my professional life. I was a pastoral staff member at a church when the senior pastor left under very painful circumstances. It became my role to hold the church together, make sure everyone was taken care of, and keep the boat afloat. I did all of that. What I didn’t do was process the grief and anger that I felt.
Unaware, We Replay our Story
Over and over this story showed up in my life: Something traumatic happens. I am the one who can keep my head about me. I protect the others. I keep them safe. I make sure they are OK. I don’t process my own pain.
About 5 years ago all that unprocessed grief and fear began to burst through the cracks in my life and things got very painful. (If you’re interested in that story, you can watch me tell some of it here.)
I’m now a couple of years into the process of unpacking all of these things. I’m just beginning to see and experience a new, much more life-giving way of being.
This is a part of my story. It was a way for me to stay strong, to perform well and secure my belonging, to make sure I was always needed. It wasn’t until I was able to see this and embrace it, that I was able to move forward.
Do you know your own story?
Your story is different from mine, but there are equally powerful elements in your story that are shaping how and why you do the things you do.
2013 is nearly upon us, offering 365 new days allowing you to write new stories. You will be given a certain amount of time, a certain amount of emotional energy, a certain level of influence, even a certain amount of money. As 2013 unfolds you will spend every bit of it, one way or another. How will this investment pay off for you?
Will it take you further down the path toward the life you hope for? If you are a follower of Jesus, will it help you honor Him? Right now is an opportunity for you to consider that.
Your story will be a big part of shaping your future. I want to encourage you to reflect on it. What’s happened in your life? What meaning did you make of it? How has that shaped who you are and what you value?
When you reflect on your story, looking clearly and honestly at it, you gain powerful insight into why you are the way you are. When you can work through the process of embracing your story, you will be able to use your story to shape a powerful and life-giving future. As a follower of Jesus, I believe the Bible teaches that God wants to redeem your story, and through it to make an enormous difference in the world.
But until you are willing to do this work, your story will shape you and you might not even know why.
As 2013 begins, I want to encourage you to choose some way to engage and embrace your own story. You can do this through good coaching or counseling. You can do it through journaling and personal reflection. I’ve even got a little book, “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values,” which is a step-by-step guide that will walk you through looking at your own story to discover your core values.
Are you embracing your story? How will your story shape you in 2013?