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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Stories I Tell about Myself

We lunge back to those memories one day and begin to trace connections about our lives. We see the recurring themes and tropes, the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves, the stories we tell others about ourselves. They become such an inherent part of us that the stories become a life unto themselves, till we can’t recognize the stories we tell about ourselves. We don’t realize until we have told it enough times and it hits us that we are saying the same thing over and over again, feeling the same emotions, pursuing different dreams with the same motives, that the doorways keep opening through the stories we cannot stop telling about ourselves. And our lives becomes projects that stretch across decades, processes of investigating more about the stories we tell about ourselves, the facts, the evidence, the theories. We seek to understand the stories so that we can understand ourselves, comprehend your humanity. Our purpose for living.

I have two stories that I tell about myself. The first is the story of my mother, the second the story of Kenya's 2007/2008 post-election violence. When I look back at my college career, how it began and ended, I see how the stories I tell about myself carried me through. In these stories my life became encapsulated in a way that I do not yet fully comprehend, that I only slowly discover as each year folds away.

When I tell of my mother I tell of the courage that she has taught me. You must remember that I grew up with my mother, so I took it for granted that women could do anything. I say that she taught us English by reading the Bible with us every morning. I tell of how I cried when she travelled to Kisumu - I was just a few months old and longed for the warmth of her bosom. I tell of how I am like her, because I can out-speak everyone but she’s the only one who can out-speak me. Mostly though, I say of how she ran away from being circumcised, how she gave up the traditions and mysteries and belonging that would come out of that because she yearned for something more, a future that she could not yet see, a dream beyond the valley she was born into.

When I speak of the post-election violence, I tell of the fracture of ethnic identities. The shapes of the violence feel like blocks in my head, a myriad colors that I do not fully understand, why I would hurt so much from something I never directly experienced, why I feel it to the core of my soul, why identity matters so much and I begin to notice the little ways that we set up boundaries between us and them, between me and you. It becomes a question that keeps me up at night, and when I write research papers in college, I draw from the shapes and colors and begin to explore the webs of meaning, the clouded confusion. I want to make it all black and white, to say, “This is the way you should live,” and yet the more I search the less I find. It becomes like water slipping through my hands.

We tell stories about ourselves because we are searching for meaning in our lives. And we recount them because we are seeking for purpose.

I have two stories that I tell about myself. But greatest story I want to tell about myself is the story about You, this unchanging love that I am still comprehending. This overwhelming sense that I cannot bear to fear for the future if the story will end the way it started. With You. When You formed me in my mother’s womb, when I will see You after I have finished telling the stories that I tell about myself. I want Your story to be the best story I could ever tell, the way that the ache in my heart dissolves because I have One in whom I can place my trust. I want to tell the story of how You loved us so much that You let Your Own Son redeem us, how He died a shameful death and even in that promised to never leave us alone. 

I want Your story to be my story.

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