I remember watching a Christian video about Oprah ten years ago. In that video, she had a concern regarding a verse in the old Testament where God says “I am a jealouse God” and “I punish the sons and daughters for their Fathers sins up to the tenth generation.” Oprah responded that she cannot accept a God who can be so jealous, petty and bitter.
From that moment on, I judged Oprah as unbiblical and “labelled” her as heretic. All I cared about was if she aligned with “my” Christian doctrine. It didn’t matter to me that she experienced injustice and pain as a child, and trying to make sense of her past.
For a sentence Oprah said, I told concluded that she is unacceptable and blacklisted from people I could learn from. (Hint: we do this to our political leaders rival) Even her salvation is now questionable. I forget that she, like me is just trying hard to make sense of the things she cannot accept about Christianity.
I forgot she was another human being.
We humans tell stories about our experiences. Since the dawn of language, we tell ourselves stories about who we are, why things happen to us and how things and people around us “should” be.
When life is working, these stories are invisible. Whether they are wrong or hurtful, it doesnt matter.
But when life becomes hard and difficult, we are forced to deal with this wrong beliefs and examples. When marriage fails, businesses go bankrupt and my loved ones are lost, I scramble to find whats wrong.
When I lose $10 in casino. I’m ok. But when I steals all my savings and find myself addicted and in debt, there is great urgency to find a solution.
When life goes wrong, we are forced to find a solution. We fix our faulty beliefs and adjust them adjust to stop the failing situation and find a new equilibrium.
Please put in mind that I’m not against Christian Theology. I am merely flushing out the thoughts I didnt know I had. My purpose in writing this is to expose the stories I tell myself about God, Church and myself that no longer serve me.
For this article, I am focusing on the stories I tell myself about Church, God and Me because I grew up in Sunday School. A Christian will not overreact when he eats pork, a Muslim does. He overreacts when he “sins”.
Apply this to your own situation whether you are Catholic, Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim or Gay. There are core values in your beliefs that is depriving your of your growth. In this article, I am focusing on my reflections relating to my Christian Beliefs.
Most of the time its not about God or the Church that hurts us. What hurts us the most are the stories we tell ourselves about God and stories I tell myself when I feel hurt.
Before everything, disclaimer. I am not disputing Christian theology, I am reflecting on my own stories and excuses for my experiences.
These are the stories I Tell Myself. I tell myself that:
That God is responsible for everything that happens to me.
This might sound good to other people but I struggle with a different concern. I have a strong expectation that God is going to take care of me and I have fears that he did not and will not take care of me. Telling me will not resolve this belief just like telling a panicking person to “relax” will not help.
Psychologically, prayer is potent in hacking my identity and beliefs. I have seen it personally and used it on others to solve their p. Sadly I am still learning what is the best tool to resolve this conflict. My goal is to feel that I am responsible for everything I do and what happens to me – whether things I can control or things I cannot control.
That I don’t need to be responsible for my thoughts as long as it feels Biblical.
Again this story comes from the verse in 2nd Timothy.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timonthy 3:16-17.
After reviewing this verse, the purpose is clear – the goal for this instruction is righteousness. It is prescribed for the “man of God”. I believe the difference in my actions and results is because I assume becoming righteous equal to financial success.
My realization is that nothing beats being clear about your goals. If I want righteousness, read the Bible. If I want to win in business plan for it. The Bible is not responsible for my financial goals.
Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; mediate on it day and night, then you will be able
to obey everything written on it; then you will b shalt prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8
I tell myself stories about this verse. I feel it is an expectation that if I read the bible, it guarantees success and financial prosperity. When I feel successful, I don’t question it. When that success doesn’t arrive I tell myself excuses why not. For example, I blame my Bible reading, prayer, moral purity and tithe. Not a good and responsible habit. 😀
When things work out and I succeed, I feel I am blessed and favored by God.
This sound very Christian. But I believe it is very simplistic in its assumption. Although it is true, the danger lies in what is not written here.
If I am only blessed and favored by God when I succeed, what does it mean when I don’t succeed?
Some negative results when I tell myself this story is that I don’t take full responsibility of my win. Instead, I “have” to credit it to God. I also focus on not looking proud.
A negative result when I win is that I keep telling myself that I am “close” to God which confuses me about my own responsibility.
Crediting everything to God prevents me from having an honest evaluation of the real reasons why my actions succeeded. I also feel less motivated to evaluate what worked and not worked because the win is totally caused by God. unconsciously, I tell put the credit for my win to my bible reading and moral purity. 😦
When things don’t succeed, I feel stuck in controlling my thoughts not to blame God, things and people.
I tell you its hard. When I succeed, church tells me its because of God. When I fail, there are a lot of creative ways people make up to explain the story. Usually its always my fault.
One of the conversations around Christianity is that God is the creator and author of all things. He is the reason for all good things that happen. For all the bad things, blame is given to the devil or sin in my life. These are not conversation I want to have when I fail.
I dont want my wins and losses to be about God, the angels or the devil. I want to wins and losses to be just that – wins and losses – no more stories. Then I can peacefully just live life and not need to kick myself when I am already down.
Lately, I have tried mindfulness. It helped me to be aware when I am making stories about my experiences. As a human, I will always make up stories and interpretations about my world. It is affirming to know that I am aware when I am making those choices.
I tell myself that I want to marry a Christian, but unconsciously I believe that is not what I want.
I grew up in Sunday School and Born Again Christian. Living Christian, these ideals are mentally conditioned in my mind.
After 20 years of repressing my emotions, I am learning how to listen to my emotions and my body.
I still don’t know what I really want. What I feel is that the church ideal of a Church Leader Girl, is not what I want. And for years I am unconsciously resenting this suggestion by the church. I don’t know what I want, but I am learning to listen to myself and this is all I need. For now, I want a Christian who knows how to party. 😀
Since 2016, I have started this journey toward authenticity. I am learning that my own Christian expectations are hurting me. For example, I tell myself stories that unless I become financially prosperous (and therefore loved by God) I might not feel worthy to marry.
I tell myself that I God will bless me because I serve in church, I give my tithes, share the gospel and make disciples.
We Christians know and understand that God doesn’t need my tithe, doesn’t need me to share the gospel and make disciples. He can accomplish this sovereignly however He wants. He is God.
Unconsciosly, there is some expectation of return. This is called reciprocity. In Asia, this is the exchanging of things with others for mutual benefit. In this case, a service to God comes with an expectation that God will bless me. There is guilt in performing your duty and obligation to parents, leaders and friends.
As an Asian, I project to God this veneration of elders and leaders to take care of me if I am loyal and faithful to Him now. In truth, this relationship is transactional considering that I am already free since Jesus paid for all my sin.
I tell myself that people will go to hell if I don’t share the gospel and give my tithe.
The call to share the gospel has been a central theme in the church. For millienia, it has united the Catholics. For centuries, it has empowered the Evangelicals.
I feel compelled to do my part. In Asia, it is hard to say no. People say yes even when they say no. I guess this is part of Asian culture.
I feel after 3 years of self-care and self-compassion I can finally let go of the need to please people and say yes when I want to say no. Sadly, because this is a “spiritual” thing, no one is asking me to do it but the obligation to share the gospel and feel bad if I don’t lingers.
It’s time I become clear on what I want.
Looking back, I wish I shouldn’t have judged Oprah and deprived myself of learning from her. This morning I listen to her 21 Days of Hope Meditation”. I feel sad that by labelling her as unBiblical I have really stunted my growth as a person for 20 years! This can be another story I tell myself.
Today I accept these stories I tell myself. I understand that only through listening to myself will I find the answers to concerns my mind and my body is showing me. I joyfully care for my body, my emotions and my mind. With Love and Trust, I embrace the greatness in me. Ian Jay Bantilan
Next Article, I’ll be writing about stories I tell myself about business and finances. Next might be stories I tell myself ab9ut love and relationships. For now, journal and reflection until I have enough to write about. 🙂
Thanks for keeping company on this journey.