Life Is Story.

The deepest convictions of our heart are formed by stories and reside there in the images and emotions of story. . . .

Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes.  As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story.  Existence has a story shape to it.  We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.”  Story is the language of the heart.  Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story.  Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with the offer to go to a movie, read a novel, or listen to the stories of someone else’s life.  Elie Wiesel suggests that “God created man because he loves stories.”  So if we’re going to find the answer to the riddle of the earth — and of our own existence — we’ll find it in story.

— Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance, p. 38-40

The Opposite of Resentment

Along with trust there must be gratitude — the opposite of resentment.  Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift.  My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve.  It always manifests itself in envy.

Gratitude, however, goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.  In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline.  The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.  I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.  It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.  I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness.  I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly.  I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 85

The True Glory of the Library

Sometimes a library use is simple.  You want something, go to the library to get it, and leave satisfied.  Sometimes it can be more than that.  You look at a website on a library computer and that reminds you of a book of which you have not thought for years or takes you to an article by someone completely unknown to you that, in turn, takes you to a DVD of a half-forgotten movie.  Once you have had that experience, you understand the true glory of the library — that complex and never-ending series of connections to the entire human record.

— Michael Gorman, Our Own Selves:  More Meditations for Librarians, p. 204

Other People’s Business

Many of us think our most meaningful work has to do with minding other people’s business.  Why is it so hard to let other people have their own journey?  Why do we persist in interfering in other people’s lives, especially when we reap so few benefits? . . .

How sad that we perceive our own well-being as so tied to the decisions, even occasional whims, of others.  But we do it, again and again, and our lives are never better for it, at least in the long run.  In the short run, trying to help a loved one live his or her life may seem like the right thing to do — it may even be engaging for awhile — but taking charge of our own lives is as much work as any one of us needs to experience.  The work of someone else’s life belongs to that person and God.

— Karen Casey, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow, p. 11-12

Love the Sinner

Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction:  how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?  But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself.  However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself.  There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.  In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.  Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.  Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery.  We ought to hate them.  Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid.  But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves:  being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

— C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted in A Year with C. S. Lewis, edited by Patricia S. Klein, p. 226

Positive Intention

Positive intention is shorthand for talking about why you want your relationship to succeed, or what you are going to do to make it work, or how you can grow from a challenging experience.  It is the opposite of complaining.  Positive intention helps you see the big picture of a successful relationship and stops you from focusing on the little picture of disappointment or grievance. . . .  I want you to share stories with yourself, with your loved one, and with your friends and family that reflect a strong and positive commitment to your marriage.  These stories do not have to be long or detailed, but they should anchor your relationship in the idea of goodness and the continued possibility of success.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 204

We Don’t Get What We Deserve.

For a Christian, however, a bottom-line principle can never be that we should get what we deserve.  Our very existence is God’s gift.  Our redemption from the snares of sin is God’s gift.  Both are undeserved, and neither could have been deserved.  From start to finish, we are always given free of charge and given more than our due.  It is therefore only fitting that we give others more than their due — give them gifts that satisfy their needs or delight their senses and imagination, and give them the gift of forgiveness that frees them from guilt and the obligation to pay for their misdeeds.

— Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 203-204

What If It Really Is True?

But consider this:  What if you knew it would all turn out well, whatever you are facing?  What if Romans 8:28 really were more than a cliche?  What if it was a certainty, a Spirit-certified life preserver, an unsinkable objective truth, infinitely buoyant, able to keep your head above water even when your ship is going down?

What if it really worked?  What if it always worked?  What if there were no problems beyond its reach?

— Robert J. Morgan, The Promise:  How God Works All Things Together For Good, p. 3

Empowering Yourself

Recognize that what your partner does is a problem, but it’s not the problem.  The problem is how you react to what your partner does.  If you make your partner the problem, all you can do is hope that he changes or try to get him to change.  That’s a disempowered position.  As you increase your ability to respond to the negative things your partner does, you are going to empower yourself and increase your own self-esteem.  This single concept is the driving principle behind almost all books on improving relationships.

— Ellyn Bader, PhD, and Peter T. Pearson, PhD, Tell Me No Lies, p. 141