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Going bigger with God: Recovering from small stories

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our Light for the Way devotional series. Each week we provide staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

By Chaplain Steve Richards, Optage Hospice
 
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” — 2 Timothy 3:14, NIV
 
At Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, every person in attendance introduces themselves in the following way: "Hello! My name is [insert name], and I am an alcoholic." So let me begin this devotional in like manner: "Hello, my name is Steve, and I am addicted to small stories about myself."
 
My addiction to small stories has followed me through my life and typically shows itself in the constant looping of thoughts of inadequacy, shame and judgement. I play out worst-case scenarios in my head and convince myself that I am incapable of being who others are telling me I am, and can be. Then, when the pain of failure becomes too great, I walk away.
 
My addiction to small stories has caused me to walk away from many amazing people and opportunities in life.
 
Recently I accepted the position of hospice chaplain with Optage. Prior to this I spent two years as an intern trying to convince myself and others that I was inadequate and unable to do this work — that there was no way God was calling me to be a chaplain. Feelings of inadequacy tended to show when things got hard, or when I messed up. I got afraid, things got painful, and I wanted to run.
 
Fleeing pain is a natural response to keep us safe, and wanting to be safe is a good thing. However, playing it safe keeps us from opportunities for growth.
 
Last November I was asked to lead a virtual devotional on the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez prays that God would enlarge his territory, keep him from harm and free him from pain. As I prepared this devotional, God’s word came to me in a new way and transformed my life. I realized, like Jabez, that I could choose to live differently. That I could choose to stop listening to the small stories I was addicted to and instead go bigger with God: the voice of God calling me to see myself differently.
 
So I began listening to the voices of those who were affirming me in my work as chaplain intern, and started to believe they were speaking truth. As a result, I heard God calling me through colleagues, families of those on hospice and even the people on hospice. I began to hear different stories about myself. Through this, God kept me from harm, freed me from pain, and my territory was enlarged.
 
I will always be a recovering addict from the small stories in my life. But, with God’s help and in the words of today’s Scripture, I am continuing in what I have learned and have become convinced of about myself. Because I have come to know and trust those from whom I have learned it.

More selected devotionals in the Light for the Way series:
What is celebrated on Epiphany?
'Free me from pain': a prayer of transformation
Optage Senior Dining Choices: Delivering meals and hope
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website

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