BY MOLLEEN DUPREE-DOMINGUEZ | February 12, 2021
My 6-year-old came home from school the other day and asked me, “Do you want to play M.A.S.H.?”
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “so this is where we are already. Wasn’t I 8 or 9 before I learned to play M.A.S.H.?”
M.A.S.H., for the uninformed, is a simple game played with paper and pencil where one lists possibilities for each of a few areas: future career, future spouse, future mode of transportation, and future home style, which makes the acronym: Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House.
Yes, friends, the capitalist, heteronormative, patriarchy reaches its claws in where ever it can get them. I played M.A.S.H. 35 years ago on the opposite coast when there was no internet. It persists.
Anyway, curious to know more about what she knew about M.A.S.H., I agreed to play.
She knew the deal exactly—list your choices, count them down, cross them off.
But the most gleeful part of the process for her, I soon realized, was the ending. Every time we’d play, she’d jump up and down shouting, “Tell me my story! Tell me my story, Mommy!”
This phrasing caught me.
“Tell me my story.”
How important it is to tell stories and to tell them on purpose. We need to be so careful in the stories we tell and the stories in which we believe.
Scripture is full of stories. Upon Jesus’ lips always: a story. Story allows us to transcend the limitations of time, space, culture, and era. There are some things that are always true. No matter where. No matter when. People often ask “Why did Jesus teach in parables? Why not just lay down the law and speak rules, rather than stories?” Many great scholars have answered this question. They are worth reading. I propose that Jesus taught in story because story engages a different part of our brains.
When we are in a listening posture for hearing a story—especially about our own lives—we are listening imaginatively. We are daydreaming along with the story teller. We are framing. We are looking forward and up—not backwards and down. We are seeing ourselves, and we are seeing everyone we know.
Stories have room. They point to truths that can be felt but not always prescribed. Jesus invites us to imagine a God who is utter Love and total Justice. Jesus invites us to imagine a humanity that is grounded in both love and justice. And he does it using the stuff of the lives of his listeners. “Imagine a woman making bread… a farmer scattering seed… a shepherd sleeping with his sheep…”
In the fabulous Untamed, Glennon Doyle asks, “What is the truest, most beautiful story about your life you can imagine?” This is what I want my refrain to be with my daughter as she grows up. At age 6, she is, on the one hand, imagining her future car and the color of her future bedroom. But as she grows and asks me to help her make sense of her life, she will be imagining much more.
When she asks me to tell her her story, I hope I reflexively ask, “Honey, what is the truest, most beautiful story about your life you can imagine?” And may we use the stuff of her life to construct that story. When she runs into obstacles, when someone breaks her heart, when she makes an enormous mistake: “Honey, what is the truest, most beautiful story about your life you can imagine?”
Lucky me, as her mother, I get to start the story. It starts with me telling her over and over again how she began. She came from God, which is to say she came from Love. She came to love and to be loved, like each of us. She came to show the world something about God. Her task is to be in touch with what that is and cultivate it, feed it, grow it, so that we can all be amazed with this manifestation of the Holy. How she makes it there is the story she gets to imagine, to tell, and to live.
“Tell me my story, Mommy! Tell it! Tell it!”
Your story is Love, little one. Go and live it.
Molleen Dupree-Dominguez, M.Div., is a teacher, writer, and spiritual director in Oakland, CA. She hosts a weekly podcast, On a Mission: Conversations with People who Get Real and Go Deep. Find podcast links and more resources to help you get real and go deep with God at molleendupreedominguez.com