I’ve always loved the Muppets. And every time I’ve watched a Muppet TV show or movie I seem to learn a lesson. Over this last Christmas, they might have taught me their biggest lesson of all.
So what do I mean? Well, let’s backtrack a little.
All life is a story. It’s a story which is being told by each of us, and somehow each of our stories intertwines with many others to create a bigger story. There’s stories being told around us each and every day.
But there’s two things we often forget about stories.
First, we have the power to shape our own story – we get to define our stories, they don’t just happen to us unless we give them the power to.
Second, our stories are like delicate flowers or ceramics – fragile, easily breakable, and delicate.
How do I know this? Because my until recently I’ve given authority to my circumstances to define much of who I am, rather than realising the power I had over my story.
And because my story is fragile, delicate and full of brokenness.
I had a crappy childhood. Problems at home, including illness, alcoholism, parents marital breakup, and on top of this terrible bullying at school which never got dealt with and just went on and on.
This made every day a hell on earth. And it damaged me deeply. Life became something which just happened, and it seemed as though everything was set against me having any kind of meaningful life. I was destined to die young, fat, lonely, rejected, and a total failure.
And this was reaffirmed a few years later when my mum died. The worst day of my life.
In hindsight, part of me just gave up at this point. I stopped caring about myself. I over-ate, stopped trying at work, didn’t even wash properly. I didn’t care about myself.
Why should I? God clearly didn’t care for me, I had no romantic relationships to speak of and few friends. And even those I did have I didn’t fully trust. My past had made me unable to trust anyone. Even God.
This only began to change 10 years ago – I found a wonderful church community, I made a best friend, and received counselling and prayer. Slowly, I began to move into a better story. I took care of myself, I respected myself, I had girlfriends, and I began to discover my calling to write.
But even as this happened, the darkness of my past still haunted me. And it still does. Every time conflict comes up this voice of the past rears it’s loud voice. This is what mild depression can do.
It tells you life isn’t worth bothering with. You might as well give up.
I’ve never considered ending it all. But I’ve often given up on living. I’ve simply existed a lot of my life, and given my circumstances too much power. And anything I achieved which was positive I refused to receive or accept.
Over Christmas, I was watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with my family. And as we watched it we discussed it’s themes, in relation to our lives now, and eventually the the focus came around to me and my life. My sisters partner, who has only known me 18 months, said something which stopped me in my tracks.
It was about my writing. How insightful, profound, and wise it was. How he’d seen comments on my blog posts and seen what a difference my writing was making to others. And how I needed to start receiving the encouragement, the compliments people gave me, and realise just how much of a gift I had, and how much of a positive legacy I was leaving on the world.
Which brings me to the Muppets. Only a few days after this experience with ‘A Wonderful Life’, I saw the 2011 Muppet movie. In it there is a character called Walter, who believes in the Muppets, brings them all together again, encourages them and unites them to perform a show to raise money to keep their theatre open. And it comes down to the last act, and Walter, who has his own talents, is refusing to perform.
And his brother, Gary, tells him all this faith and belief he has in others, he now needs to have in himself – and that’s how he grows up, and makes an impact on the world.
So he goes and performs, and gets a standing ovation – and saves the show.
Honestly, I was trying to hide my face, in case tears came out. Because when Gary said those words to his brother, I swear it was the voice of God speaking directly to me.
In that moment, I physically felt my heart begin to break.
That day I’d read a short e-book by Don Miller, part of which was about respecting yourself, having a positive relationship with your own self. (honestly, I’m not making this up – this is how crazy perfect God’s timing can be sometimes).
I had tweeted Don with some encouragement and gratitude for the book – not expecting someone as big or as busy as Don to reply.
And of course, when I got home from my Dad’s watching the Muppet movie, there it was on my laptop. A reply from Don thanking me for my encouragement.
My sister told me a great metaphor for compliments. Imagine an open umbrella facing upwards to receive them, and then turn it on yourself so all the encouragement, all the positive messages, fall on you and are protected from the outside forces.
And that’s what I’m trying to do now. With all these encouragements. To keep them, to remember them.
We must treasure all the encouragements we receive. They have the power to change our lives. (you can tweet this).
My story is fragile. But I also know it’s important to share this – because there’s a small chance this might help someone else who needs to hear it. And because I firmly believe if even one person benefits from my sharing this story, it’s worth sharing it.
Now I am more convinced than ever of my power to define my own story. The dark voices still will have their say, but now I have an umbrella to protect me.
The umbrella of encouragement.
You can have one too. There’s one waiting for you.
Choose to pick it up today.
Question for Reflection:
What would it look like for you to pick up your umbrella of encouragement?
Let me know in the comments below!
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(Picture Sources: Wired / Online Sources)
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