Not My Story To Tell
I love going to the movies. From the smell of popcorn when you enter the theater to the credits rolling
at the end, going to see a movie in a theater is one of my favorite things to do. I get enthralled quickly and often forget that they aren't supposed to include audience participation. I have been known to scream, yell warnings, throw my fists in the air, and cry. In fact, when there's a lot of action, if you're sitting next to me, you may get elbowed because I am so into it, and I make no apologizes. Warnings yes, but not apologizes because in the theater, in the moment, and caught up in all a movie has to offer is one of my happy places.
One movie in particular I was excited to see was Exodus: Gods and Kings. When my boyfriend first showed me the trailer I was excited. I figured there would be some creative license and that it probably wouldn't be an exact retelling of the Biblical account but rather an adaptation, but I was still excited. I couldn't wait to see the plague of frogs on the big screen. When I was a kid I had a picture book on Moses and was obsessed with the 2 page layout of the invasion of frogs. It just fascinated me, so when 30 years later I had the chance to see it on the big screen, I was pumped.
As a side note, and I will only hop on my soapbox a second, one of the things that grieves my heart is how low the standard for popular Christian art has been in the past. From bad music to movies where you find better production in a local high school, I can't handle how for so long the church has settled for mediocrity in the arts. One huge factor in choosing my church was how they did the artistic things well. There is no one on stage singing just because they are related to or married to someone of influence in the church. The people on stage are all talented in the areas they perform. The same goes for the videos, artwork, and decor. From the smallest children on up, The Gospel is presented with the excellence it is due. The Arts are given their place and held to a high standard. Getting off my soapbox now... So for this reason I was also excited about the recent movie Noah and actually loved it. Again, it was a loose interpretation of the short story in Genesis, and at first there were some things I thought were in left field, but it was beautifully done. It seemed to me the writer of the story comes from a stricter background because some of the loving elements of God were missing, but the movie got me thinking and dialoging with God. I loved that it wasn't flannel graph Moses. It showed the struggle he must have had, and after a little research into the rock people and discovering they were an interpretation of The Book Of Enoch, I had to give the screenwriter props for his imagination. And while I still disagree with the inference that the people wiped out were innocent because the Bible says they were wicked, I recommend the movie because it makes you think. It makes you want to go home and pull out your Bible and see what its says. The new Exodus movie didn't give me the same experience. It wasn't full of creative details missing from the Biblical story, it was a flat out changed. There were so many small details that were contrary to the Biblical account it pissed me off because I had watched an interview where Christian Bale said that they had done the research and were keeping close to the original account. I left the theater feeling lied to and angry because someone had tried to twist a story that is a part of my spiritual linage and make it something it wasn't. And at risk of getting on a soapbox again, I will spare you the details that bothered me because I think that kind of thing belongs in one on one dialogue and not the Internet, but the movie did get me thinking.... Why do people try and twist other people's stories? While I watched the movie it reminded me of the time I got a haircut from a man who spent the whole time trying to convince me the Bible isn't true. He had no facts, just theories. I want to give him credit for trying to get me to think, but he so obviously didn't have the education to back up his claims. I could have whipped out something from my arsenal of "why I believe what I believe", but honestly the man didn't want a discussion; he wanted to change my mind. He just wanted to indoctrinate me into his way of thinking. And that's what the Exodus movie felt like to me. It felt like 2 1/2 hours of someone tweaking the truth to get me to doubt that God is great. That "I AM" is the one true God and saved His people out of love. Doubt that Pharaoh had chance after chance to save his son if he had only let the Israelites free. Doubt that Moses talked to God and gave the excuse of his stuttering as to why he couldn't go to Pharaoh. Doubt that God sent Aaron to help Moses out because he didn't feel equipped to talk to Pharoah. Doubt that that Moses killed the Egyptian to save an Israelite. Doubt Moses's staff turned into a snake. Doubt that God parted the sea when Moses raised his staff and allowed the people to pass without having to run for their lives at the end. Doubt that God led them by day through a pillar of cloud and at night with a pillar of fire... So many things were different than the original story, but still keeping in line with the story that if you don't know it well, the differences may go unnoticed. But I know the story and I know it well. I've spent hours studying Moses and his life so I knew the story. He is someone who has fascinated me and I have grown so much in studying him. I know what the Bible says, and what I believe and why. So when I felt someone was trying to change the facts, I didn't like it. It felt as if someone was trying to change my story because as a follower of Christ, the story of Moses is my heritage. But it did get me thinking about how people try and rewrite other people's story. In my circle of friends, some of us have a phrase: "Not my story to tell." It simply means when a conversation is headed in a place that is starting to look like gossip, it stops there. If it doesn't directly concern me, and only me, then the details aren't my story to tell. And as a storyteller, I take it very seriously. As someone who has been burned my the "gossip under the guise of prayer request", I try my best to stick only to telling my story. It's often hard to do and I don't always do this well, but I try. When I am tempted to look at someone and think, "Why would you do that?", or "I just don't understand what you're thinking", I need to stop myself and remember it's not my story to tell. They have their reasons and if I don't understand I need to keep my opinions to myself. Unless their actions actually impact my life and their story intersects with mine, I may need to ask them about their train of thought. I've learned the hard way this question must be asked from a place of genuine care and not judgement and it's best to ask this question after talking to God about it first to keep your heart and motives in check. When we come from a place of empathy and care without judgment, it's a beautiful thing. But when we come into a conversation like this with preconceived notions, it's heartache waiting to happen. When situations like this come up and we do feel a conversation needs to take place in order to understand someone better, we must keep in mind their story is not my story. The fact is my story is full of enough stories to keep me occupied. I don't need to mess with other people's stories unless they actually affect my life. The fact also is that God is working in each and every person's lives, wooing them with His kindness, but that kindness looks differently from person to person. In fact, when looking at someone else's story from the outside, the kindness is often overshadowed by the cruelty surrounding it as a result in living in this fallen world. Only when the story is yours do you have the opportunity to fully experience His kindness in it. Of course we are invited into other peoples stories but the story I mainly need concern myself is mine. In my story I will play roles in other people's story and I pray I do my part well. I pray I love well. I pray I encourage well. I pray I speak well and that my actions are kind. But in the end, it is my story I am responsible for. I have from time to time found myself playing too big a role in someone else's story. I have found myself sharing in someone else's story a role bigger than was written for me. What's worse is I share it from my point of view, a view that is inaccurate because it's not my story to tell. It's also not my story to get caught up in. Too many times I have found myself walking alongside someone in their story only to find out I have taken it up as mine. I went from supportive to codependent and when that happens, health is not present. Instead I must make sure I don't use other people's stories to distract me from what's going on in my own life. I can't let my true compassion be twisted into a smoke screen so I don't see what is going on around me. I must continually ask God to teach me to live here, in the present, fully engaged in the moment He has given me. This way, when invited into someone else's story, I can play the supporting role and play it well in a way that leads to us all flourishing. So even though I didn't really like the experience of watching the Exodus movie, I am thankful I went because I have been mulling over this idea of our parts in people's stories, and I like it when a movie leaves me thinking. If you go see Exodus: Gods and Kings, I totally recommend reading Exodus 1-15 before and after seeing it. But the frogs are great....