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Letting God Rewrite Our Narratives: How Sharing Our Story Can Transform Pain into Purpose

By Mara Eller

Brave Women Series - Mara's Story


I was deeply hurt by friends in middle and high school (and again as an adult), and those wounds created in me a fear of rejection that’s been hard to shake. What I’ve always wanted most was intimate friendships, but they seemed to elude me, and so I concluded there was something about me that was not worthy of love.

 

Of course, that conclusion was not conscious. But because it operated beneath the surface of consciousness, that sense of unworthiness was even more powerful. While believing that I was showing up authentically, I was, in reality, withholding my deepest self for fear it would cause me to be rejected once again. Each new rejection (perceived or real) simply confirmed the story I believed about my unworthiness. But none of that was clear to me at the time.

 


The Stories We Tell

 

A few years ago, I started teaching a personal narrative writing class that invited students to unpack formative events from their lives and identify what they had learned. I saw over and over how writing the story of a difficult experience led them to a transformed understanding of that event—and consequently, of themselves—and so I began to teach that process intentionally.

 

What I’ve learned is that we all have stories we believe about the world and about ourselves, and the false parts of those stories form “dark clouds” around our souls, diminishing their light—the light God wants us to use to illuminate the world. But because those stories are deeper than our cognitive beliefs, most of us are unaware of the stories we’re living.


 

"We all have stories we believe about the world and about ourselves, and the false parts of those stories form “dark clouds” around our souls, diminishing their light—the light God wants us to use to illuminate the world... most of us are unaware of the stories we’re living."

 

We might say, for example, that we are all made worthy by the blood of Christ, adopted daughters of the one true King—repeating the doctrine we’ve heard hundreds of times. But most of us struggle to really know that in our bones. This is because our identity is determined not by the logical, rational parts of our brains but by the relational, emotional parts. And those parts operate through story.

 

We can’t argue ourselves into new understandings of who we are. But if we’re brave enough to try, we can re-write the stories that inform those understandings. God has given us the tools to do just that.


 

"We can’t argue ourselves into new understandings of who we are. But if we’re brave enough to try, we can re-write the stories that inform those understandings. God has given us the tools to do just that."

 

The first step is becoming aware of the stories we have been unconsciously living in. Most of us are blind to those stories because they are so integral to how we see the world. On this earth, we will always see imperfectly, “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12, NKJV), but God calls us to a clearer vision, and we can work toward that clarity now, even as we await its completion in heaven.

 

How? Through story. It’s no accident that Jesus is known as the Word (John 1). Words, which we alone of all God’s creatures can weave into stories, are incredibly powerful. And when we share those stories vulnerably with others, their power is magnified.


 

"Words, which we alone of all God’s creatures can weave into stories, are incredibly powerful. And when we share those stories vulnerably with others, their power is magnified."

 

 

The Power of Vulnerability

 

What I’ve seen in my classes is that the process of unpacking our stories in the presence of others who are doing the same brings forth life-changing revelations. It strikes me as truly miraculous, every single time, the way crafting an experience into a narrative prompts the author to see herself in a new way.

 

But it requires vulnerability. It simply doesn’t work unless we bring our full selves to the process, “warts” and all.

 

And vulnerability requires courage.

 

Sharing our inmost being with others is universally terrifying. That’s been true since we first covered ourselves with fig leaves and hid from our Maker. But it’s the only way to defeat shame. There’s something about the act of bringing those parts of ourselves that we would rather keep hidden out into the light—into the gaze of others—that allows us to see ourselves anew.

 

 

"Sharing our inmost being with others is universally terrifying. That’s been true since we first covered ourselves with fig leaves and hid from our Maker. But it’s the only way to defeat shame."

 

Such intimacy is what we were created for. We long to be “fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12, NIV), to be loved and accepted without reservation or caveat, something only God can do perfectly but that we can approach here on earth nonetheless.

 

What I’ve been learning is that true intimacy begins, not with others, but with our own hearts. We can only be as transparent with others as we are with ourselves. God wants to help us see ourselves as He does, with radical acceptance, even of our faults.


 

"What I’ve been learning is that true intimacy begins, not with others, but with our own hearts. We can only be as transparent with others as we are with ourselves. God wants to help us see ourselves as He does, with radical acceptance, even of our faults."

 

Father Stephen Freeman says that the goal of our lives is not to become better people but rather to “become more honest, more truly ourselves, more willing to acknowledge the truth of our lives, more willing to bear our weakness and infirmities. And,” he continues, “it’s in that truth that the transformation that is ours in Christ can begin.”

 


Transformation through Truth

 

As I’ve taught these truths to my students over the years, the Great Teacher has taught me as well. He’s taught me to lead with vulnerability because sharing parts of my story creates space for others to do the same. He’s taught me that our memories can be transformed by sharing them with others, pain transformed into purpose, painted over with joy. And He’s taught me that vulnerability is the path to real connection, both with Him and with the friends for which I’ve longed all my life.


 

"As I’ve taught these truths to my students over the years, the Great Teacher has taught me as well. He’s taught me to lead with vulnerability because sharing parts of my story creates space for others to do the same."

 

A few weeks ago, I shared with two close friends a story from 2nd grade that I’d come to realize still elicited bodily shame. My voice grew tremulous as I spoke the words, my eyes refusing to lift from the kitchen counter. After all we’d been through together, I knew in my mind that these women would love me no matter what, but my heart still doubted. When I finished, I looked up to find joyful acceptance in their eyes, and we laughed together at the absurdity of life. And just like that, the power that memory held over me was gone.

 

Brené Brown writes, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” Let us draw strength from the knowledge that God is with us in this, as in all things, and find the courage to share the truest parts of ourselves. For as Christ reminds us, “the truth will set [us] free” (John 8:32, ESV).


 

"Let us draw strength from the knowledge that God is with us in this, as in all things, and find the courage to share the truest parts of ourselves. For as Christ reminds us, “the truth will set [us] free”

 


 

Brave Woman Manifesto



Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.


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About Mara




Mara Eller is a teacher, writer, editor, and coach with a passion for helping people craft stories that change the world, one life at a time. Her signature writing course, Unearthing Beauty, teaches students a repeatable process for unearthing a fuller picture of who they are and claiming authorship over their lives, while also producing a polished personal essay. She lives in Tallahassee, FL, with her husband and three young daughters.

 

You can learn more about Mara’s personal narrative class at www.maraeller.com/unearthing-beauty-class, read more of her work at www.maraeller.com/blog, or connect with her over on Instagram. Join her email community to get writing tips, exclusive content, and first dibs on new offerings.


1 Comment


teresa
teresa
Dec 13, 2023

Mara, YES to all of your wise and honest words!!! What a beautiful article.❤️

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