This morning’s entry of The Mockingbird Devotional comes from the man himself, David Zahl. To order a copy of your own, click here.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5, ESV)

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I love stories, you love stories, we all love stories. We like to read them, watch them, hear them, tell them, experience them. We always have and we always will. In fact, sociologist Christian Smith claims that our ability and propensity for storytelling is a big part of what makes us human. He calls us “animals who make stories but also animals who are made by our stories.”

Listen closely the next time someone tells you their life story—or the next time you tell someone yours—and you will inevitably hear some kind of over-arching narrative. It may have to do with overcoming adversity; it may have to do with tragedy and victimhood; it may have to do with overriding social or political forces, or with success, failure, beauty, money, power, etc. It could be as simple as “I was worse, but now I am better,” or as arbitrary as “I used to have a difficult relationship with my mother, but now it’s much easier.” And there are the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories about ourselves that we buy into. As soon as we identify with these stories—i.e. who we have to be or want to be or should be—we set ourselves up to rationalize or straight-up deny any experiences or feelings that don’t fit. We all do it, but that doesn’t make it any less a recipe for loneliness and resentment.

The story we read here about God is a surprising one. It is not a story of triumph or glory. It is not a story of retribution or blessing or even joy. It is a story about those things that we tend leave out of the narratives we project onto God—namely, suffering, loss, and grief. That is because this is the story about Jesus. Which means it is a story of comfort for those whose lives haven’t followed a neat or consistent trajectory and sometimes don’t seem to make any sense at all. Tullian Tchividjian puts it this way:

God is not interested in what you think you should be or feel. He is not interested in the narrative you construct for yourself, or that others construct for you… Rather, He is interested in you, the you who suffers, the you who inflicts suffering on others, the you who hides, the you who has bad days (and good ones). And He meets you where you are. Jesus is not the man at the top of the stairs; He is the man at the bottom, the friend of sinners, the savior of those in need of one. Which is all of us, all of the time, praise be to God!

So what stories are you telling about yourself today? What stories are you telling yourself about God? Perhaps we might pray that we would be given fresh ears to listen to a new story: the story of a suffering servant who loves us as we are, not as we should be. The story that no one in their right mind would make up, especially not if they wanted anyone else to believe it. Unless, of course, it were true.