March 15, 2024

Getting Unstuck: Untangling the Tapestry Together (Part 2)

If our stories about ourselves are interwoven with shame, how can others provide insight to help us rewrite those stories?

“Lived experience and intellectual reflection must be unified to find wholeness” –Dr. Pamela King

What is our shame saying about us?

Embracing our belovedness can feel hard. In a pluralistic and polarized society, it can feel daunting to re-imagine a faith community that is expansive enough to embrace everyone’s belovedness. Dr. Pamela King says that “love guides the way in which truth is being pursued […] we need to pursue our public faith both with deep conviction and greater pluralism.” The redemption that comes with being the beloved is relational. This is why our belovedness, as Miroslav Volf and Dr. Pamela King note, cannot come at the expense of another, regardless of whether they are a person of faith or not. To be the beloved is to acknowledge that we are all the beloved. It is to embrace that no matter what we believe about God, our primary narrative, the first story we step into as human beings is one of needing love. 

Oftentimes, shame is a common ingredient in our self-narratives. Shame compels us to believe that what we have done or what we have believed makes us too far gone to be the beloved. Yet, our shame is actually signaling something within us that longs to thrive. Thriving happens in the context of relationships and so does our shame. We feel shame because we believe that we have not only done something wrong but because we are inherently wrong. Shame is weighty. It is hard to embrace our belovedness when we feel that there is something wrong with who we are. It is even harder if the belief stems from an idea that God created us inherently defective. We can get stuck in some sticky spaces theologically if we believe that the God who made us messed up. Our shame gets in the way of not only seeing our own belovedness but also the belovedness of others.

Stories Stick with Us

Depending on your family of origin, the idea that our primary narrative is one of love might feel inaccessible. Our families shape our understanding of what love is and what it isn’t. For some, our families affirm our belovedness and for others, family dynamics can make it challenging to imagine that love exists. The stories we hear and experience during childhood speak to our earliest narratives told by our families. My favorite book as a child was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The story told is one of self-sacrifice that highlights the joy of giving and the importance of caring ethically for the earth. I see these values of sacrifice and reciprocity in my family. This story has stuck with me. We initially learn to tell our stories based on the stories our families tell us. But as we grow and develop, we have the agency to choose what parts of these stories we want to take with us into new places and spaces.

Untangling your Tapestry 

Our life will tell us a story if we give it the space to. Theologian and author Parker J. Palmer wrote “before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” Our lives are full of stories, but we have to create space to listen, respond, and sometimes rewrite. Being the beloved means that we have to create room for margin in our lives to embrace a narrative of belonging through our relationship with God and others.

Take a few moments to do an inventory of the stories you read as a child. Also consider what stories were passed down orally in your family. Depending on your cultural background, where you grew up, your families’ socioeconomic status, your educational background, and a myriad of other factors, you may have spent more time listening to stories passed down orally. Not all of our narratives are literal stories–some are experiences, relationships and environments that shaped us. Regardless of how you received these narratives, take time to journal about what themes or values come up in these stories. Consider how these values are still present in your life today. Now, think about how these stories affirm or contradict the narrative of being the beloved. If you find yourself wishing you could tell yourself a different story, know that you are not alone and it is not too late. Embracing one’s story of belovedness is a journey. Our brains are malleable and thanks to our understanding of neuroplasticity, we now know that we are capable of establishing new neural pathways that can reinforce new narratives we long to tell about ourselves. Throughout every stage of our development, we are constantly piecing together threads to have a more holistic understanding of our life tapestry.  

Questions for reflection–You might want to journal about the following and then share with a trusted friend or loved one.

  1. What gets in the way of you translating your intellectual understanding of belovedness into a feeling of belovedness?
  2. As you look back on your life, what stories stand out to you? Consider what stories of pain and hope you have chosen to hold onto. Are you alone in these stories or do they involve others?
  3. If you could write a story about your life, what would be the primary theme throughout it? Where is it easy for you to see love in your story? Where is it challenging? Consider why this may be.
  4. After you have taken time to reflect, we invite you to share your story with a trusted friend, mentor or family member. Choose someone you believe knows you well and invite them to affirm the love or lack of love they see in your story.


Shaya Aguilar Thrive Fellow / Writer


Continue Exploring


Getting Unstuck: Why You Need Help to Understand Your Story (Part 1)


A Practice: Questions for Life Review


The Gift of Losing your Keys: A Story of Neurodiversity

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