Stormy First Drafts: The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Posted on April 29, 2020 by Justin Serrano

The pandemic COVID-19 has swept across our nation and left people in fear over so many areas of their lives—finances, family, schooling, childcare, and even toilet paper. We can laugh about the crazy situations that are occurring, but deep down many of us are truly fearful of the uncertain future. Our natural tendencies are to want the full story. We want to know the answers to all these uncertainties. When will graduation for my senior happen? Will I lose my job? How will I find childcare for my kids who are out of school for months? Will any of my family members or friends get sick with this scary virus? Should I stockpile food? When will I be able to go to church again? How long will this last? When can life go back to normal?

There are no answers to these questions that stir around in our minds all day long as we sit on our couch watching news report after news report about the increasing numbers of people with coronavirus in New Mexico, the restrictions on social distancing becoming more rigid all the time, and the lack of medical supplies for the sick. What are we to do? Often, we make up the answers. People tend to fill in the blanks with what they think will most likely happen. Or worse, we fill in those blanks with the worst that could happen. In the book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown calls this the “Stormy First Draft” (SFD). This is the first story our minds make up to fill in the blanks of all the unanswered questions to our worries, and we love doing it. We love diving into the drama. It helps us fill in the blanks.

As a high school teacher, I recently found myself making up a SFD about school closures. In a group text, my teacher friends all were asking what we as teachers will be required to do with learning online. I came up with my version of what I thought would happen (my SFD), and we all started confirming each other’s worst case scenarios. Maybe we would need to film ourselves daily, and maybe we would be required to grade tons of papers while homeschooling our own children. Our SFDs exaggerated the problems and added to the anxiety in each other’s minds.

Brene Brown says, “In our SFDs, fear fills in the data gaps” (260). She calls these lies we tell ourselves and others “confabulations.” These are lies that we tell each other honestly. We don’t mean to lie to our friends and to our loved ones or to ourselves; we just want to help make sense of the situations we can’t understand. Like when I told my daughter that I hoped we would be able to have her graduation party in June because it would be better by then. Truthfully, I don’t know if things will be better; I don’t know when she’ll be able to invite all her friends and family over to celebrate this monumental moment in her life, but I confabulated a story to make myself and her feel better.
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We combine our fear with a little bit of data and make up a stormy first draft of what we think will happen. What we really need to do in times like this is stop and realize that these SFDs are lies and not what God is asking us to do with these uncertain times. He is asking us to trust Him, to trust His word, and trust His promises. When we hear that the toilet paper, meat, rice, and bread are flying off the shelves of the grocery stores, we are to not worry. In Matthew 6:25, God tells you to “not be anxious about your life, what you eat or what you drink.” God will provide; go to God in prayer. The answer to your stormy first drafts is going to God with your troubles. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.”

When we are faced with storms in our lives and we are tempted to make up those Stormy First Drafts, imagining the worst, we need to tell the Lord and ask him to help us to trust in Him instead of our own confabulations.

Another way to strengthen your faith is to find a godly friend to confide in during your time of struggle. This is not the intent to share your stormy version of what you think will happen next. This is not spreading the fear you are feeling, like I did with my teacher friends. It is finding someone who will increase your faith in God and ask them for encouragement. Pastor Jason once said that when we are low on faith, we can borrow faith from a friend. When I am feeling weak, I often rely on my friends at Harvest, my husband, and my daughter to strengthen my faith. Go to your godly friends and ask them to pray for you and with you. Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Be willing to redirect a friend who is starting to tell you their SFD. Tell your friend, “Let’s give this to God.” It will build your faith, too.

This can be a scary time with many uncertainties, but God holds the future in his hands. He is still in control. We can be the light in this dark world if we will stop spreading our stormy first drafts and start spreading God’s peace, love, and hope. Take all your questions to God, trust in His promises, and ask your friends to help build up your faith.

Harvest—when storms come your way, remember that love>fear. Trust in GOD and go be the church!