I have always had an active fantasy life. I admit this sheepishly and more than a little embarrassed. It’s something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and it’s only been in the last year and a half that this has changed. By fantasy life, I mean long, involved movie reels running in my head starring yours truly as the main character. In these movies either everything is perfect and lovely, or I’m a tortured tragic heroine sorely abused and mistreated, who finally gets the recognition and love she deserves at long last (depending on my mood and what else is going on in real life). Any given situation or encounter or circumstance is fodder for this movie, and of course in each episode I am the epitome of perfection, never wrong, and always closeup-ready. While other characters may have starring roles, they rotate often and no one is more important than me, myself, and I.
Since hearing and (finally) answering the call of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I’ve found myself being weaned off these movies. See, God is nothing if not real, and deals in reality and not fantasy. My current circumstances may be less than ideal, but I know that I still have Him and for a year and a half that has been more fantastical than I know what to do with. I haven’t had as much room in my head for the overactive imagination.
I occasionally get sucked into Tik-Tok. I have found the app to be the epitome of mindless entertainment, with all the nutritional value of candy-coated cardboard, but I can lose hours, if not days, on it if I’m not careful. I know this because I haven’t always been careful. In one of my last forays into the morass of Tik-Tok, I noticed several content creators referring to being a “main character.” The phrase caught my attention, and I believe God used that to connect the dots between my fantasy life and a life lesson it was time for me to learn.
The society we live in is…a pit to be honest. I was sitting here trying to think of what I wanted to say, how I wanted to express my thoughts, and drew a blank. It’s just a big bucket of muck. Very humanistic, we humans can do it ourselves, inhabit your own truth, it’s your world, and on and on. It’s a very self-centered society. I admit I love superhero movies, and while I will still watch them occasionally, it hits me over and over when I do just how anti-Jesus our society is. We will canonize and idolize other humans based on their looks, their bank accounts, their athletic prowess, their intelligence, and any number of other things. We make movies about metahumans that come to save the world, and we pay no attention to the true Superhero who has already saved the world. Why? Because we would have to admit we couldn’t. That would make us not the main character, and everybody wants to be their own main character.
So many relationships fail because a story can’t have two main characters. So many fights and misunderstandings and rifts and divorces, all because everyone is vying for first place. I’ve been guilty of this, and been bit by others who are guilty of this; I’m pretty sure we all have. But until we realize it, it can’t be changed.
Some who know me or my family personally know that we have been in the middle of a raging storm. We have been thrust into survival mode where every decision, every action, every thought is geared toward getting through. God has been merciful and loving, and has carried us this far, and I know that He will carry us through the end of it, however long that may be. But survival mode is interesting. It’s sheer and raw and very quickly removes all the extraneous, nonessential stuff. We are reduced to the bare bones of life, and have all found ourselves calling out to our Creator every hour, sometimes every minute of every hour.
During one moment when I was here at home, doing something or other (can’t remember what, but I know I was in my bedroom), I was kind of prayerfully thinking, almost chatting with God about the situation and mentally going through a list of problems and potential solutions, changes that would have to be made or adapted to, etc. I remember thinking of one potential solution and wondering what God would do with it, how He would meet needs and show Himself strong and mighty, then that thought led to another of how He may use a potential solution to solve one of my own thorny problems, which then led to me dipping a toe into the fantasy life again. I stopped whatever I was doing because the next thought that hit me was “no, because that would make me the main character, and I’m not.” I believe I even said that out loud. (Good thing I was alone!)
I realized after that thought just how far God has brought me from where I used to be. The movie reel thing was so commonplace for me for so long that I didn’t really realize how much that had changed. I have thought about certain aspects of who I am now, or at least who He is making me, that have changed drastically, but I hadn’t connected those dots before. Anywhere I used to go, anyone I was around, I watched to see how they would interact with me, and then I would respond accordingly, or at least according to my mood at the moment. I was so easily offended when someone didn’t reach out to me, or didn’t act the way I thought they should, didn’t treat me the way I thought I deserved. I would spend many hours brooding over how I was mistreated, overlooked, underused or overused, under-valued, blah blah blah. I would go to church or to a friend’s house, to work and it was all about me. It was all about how everyone greeted me, or who didn’t greet me. It was about who appeared happy to see me, who ignored me. It was about who asked me to bless them with my talents, and who overlooked or rejected them. It’s a very childish way of life. Very me-minded. And very miserable.
Since Jesus brought me back to Himself, He has shifted my focus to Him. Now, I will tell you right up front that I am so far from perfect that the thought of perfection is laughable. I’m not the perfect follower of Christ, I’m not the perfect church member, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, or friend. Not even a little bit. But one thing I can say, one thing that being a follower of Christ has brought me, is that it’s not about me. That mindset holds most of the time with some pretty notable slips here and there.
He has become my main character, and He is quick to point out when I’ve shifted the story line so that I try to inhabit that place. (I’m not always quick to listen or heed when He does point it out, just so you know.) But what a difference it is to go through this life knowing that this isn’t my story, it’s His. It’s not about how it all works out for me, it’s about who sees Christ in me. It’s not about the trials and tribulations I may experience, or about the mountaintops and glory I get blessed with, it’s how marvelous and loving He is. It’s about looking towards Him, reaching up to Him, clinging to Him, griping to Him, dumping my worries and fears on Him, so that I can be His letter of recommendation. It’s not about me.
Oh how much happier I have been by abdicating the leading role in this life He’s given me. What a relief it is to know that I’m in a supporting role. The story line, the plot movement, the character development doesn’t depend on me. It’s a pressure and a responsibility that we were not created to bear. My shoulders aren’t strong enough, my brain isn’t smart enough, my heart isn’t big enough. I can’t do it. And spending 47 years trying to gave me social anxiety, depression, alcoholism and other coping mechanisms, a deep distrust of others, impatience, sarcasm, and a lack of compassion to name a few.
I have so much further to go to get rid of the “main character” mindset. It’s a sneaky, subtle beast that is very adept at disguise. But I know that when I listen to Jesus, when I am tuned to Him, when I am sensitive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit to my heart, He is faithful to show me the lies I have fallen for. And He’s so gentle, so loving about it. There’s no shame, no disgrace, no frowning. He loves me, as weird as I am, even though I don’t deserve it.
We are all in the middle of a story. We can stress and work and worry about moving the story forward, who else is in it and who is not, new plotlines and old ones that come around again. But we are all meant to play supporting roles in this circus of life. Everyone we come in contact with is a supporting actor, whether they have accepted that role or not. We can all stand to the side and eagerly watch Jesus take center stage. We will all be so much more relaxed when we do. Who is your main character?