avoiding hemming myself in with my own narrative…

You made me; you created me.
    Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
    for I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 119:73-74

My inspiration for this morning’s post is an idea that has been forming in response to one of the pods I listen to while walking Max in the late evening. A recent episode of TED Radio Hour featured host Manoush Zomorodi talking with journalist Saleem Reshamwala about his show, Far Flung, a podcast designed to inspire new perspectives on travel and cultures.

One segment focused on the work of Nairobi based artist Wanuri Kahiu, who spearheads the AFROBUBBLEGUM Art movement. Her goal is to promote joyful expression within art, and to challenge the default Desperation Narrative that – she believes – traps the focus of African art within themes of poverty and war.

Defining Narrative?

So I found myself thinking about what is good – and also what is not so good – about art formed within the parameters of a particular narrative. I launched a little self-evaluation to that end, looking about my often expressed commitment to write inside of a narrative that has become my own personal orthodoxy.

I often use expressions such as “pouring my thinking/writing/speaking through a particular filter,” or “viewing everything through such-and-such a lens…” This is really useful to me if I want to remain consistent, and it helps me to articulate the message I want to get across.

When I was a newspaper writer, for example, I often reminded my readers of my commitment to write in the context of Philippians 4:8: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

But – and this is my thinking in response to the convictions of Wanuri Kahiu in the Far Flung pod – should I not create art (and I am using the word “art” as a substitute for “writing”) for art’s sake? Might it be that my work could be more powerful, more authentic, if did not hem myself in with my own narrative?

Or does this narrative that has become my personal orthodoxy actually result in more freedom? Freedom much in the same way the lines around a soccer field promote freedom as they help keep the ball in play?

Jesus is God’s invitation:

As I think this through I see that even my doubts and struggles, my difficult questions and my failures in faith, can (and must) be experienced and expressed under the umbrella of following The Way of Jesus. Because it is not so much my “correct” religious behaviors that place me in the family of God so much as it is the love, grace, mercy, promise, and light of Jesus – the open and welcoming invitation.

– continuing our journey, together…

So I guess the answer to the question I have posed in this post is that Jesus does not ask me to pretend, or to toe the party line, or to stifle my restless brain. Instead, God’s invitation is that I bring – always – my authentic self to the table. The table of communion; the table of conversation; the table of learning; the table of prayer; the table of service; the table of grace.

The narrative that I have accepted, as an act of faith, does not require anything of me other than honesty and an open spirit. And I can explore all of it right here…

– DEREK

2 comments

  1. Thanks for the reference to AFROBUBBLEGUM. Also I think narratives, filters, and lenses are fine as long as they are used with right intention. Being unaware of the limitations of filters is where the danger lies. Following Phillipians 4:8 is a great idea as long as it doesn’t blind us to others’ suffering and our duty to respond. But it doesn’t have to, I don’t think. Narratives are useful, until they aren’t. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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