There is a villain in every story.

In the stories we don’t read aloud, we can be both an old friend and a fresh enemy. Some may think we are quiet; in truth, there are chapters where spoken words lack the ability to translate the ageless conflict between the heart and mind. During these patterns of disagreement, the most challenging thing is not that we lack the courage to turn the page, but that our discernment is distorted. We have trouble recognizing the villain – the truth from the lie in the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions. Truths become decisions that either move us forward or backward. Yet, sometimes it seems we are at a standstill reading the same line over and over again trying to figure out the meaning before we move on – before we decide.

Washing dishes on a cold night, I am thankful for the warmth of the water. As I reach for the last dirty plate, I can’t help but wonder if the water, despite sudsy, is really clean. The plate slips from my grasp and into the basin with a messy splash. The warmth of the droplets seeps into my black shirt, blending in without visible notice. But the wet is quick to chill, and I am left uncomfortable in my skin.

There is a villain in every story.

Being uncomfortable, you become aware of the power of imagination - the power to distort certainty. Stories authored by the imagination weave reality’s costume – narratives of fear and faith, villains and heroes. If we are not careful, reality fills the costume as if it were tailormade. Our specifications and perceptions become the variation of truth we accept - a self-fulfilling prophecy fated to do everything but truly fulfill us. We begin to question if we are living our life’s purpose on purpose.

Reaching for a cup towel, I am stopped by what floats in the space between my body and the wall. Two bubbles are suspended and stilled as if put there by an artist’s brush – translucent eyes distorting the framed words “Keep the faith” on the back wall. I wonder, despite my faith, will I ever feel really clean - free from conflict of what I know I should do and what I do. Many struggles I give credit to my imagination: justifying my actions and reactions with a costumed version of reality, playing into worries which infrequently come to fruition, and following fears that become shadows which chill me to the bone and dampen my hope. I am, indeed, a repeat offender to my best self.

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).

So much of what holds us in conflict is unseen, blended in without notice. Despite the showing we present to others, we often take a front-row seat to our worst qualities and a nosebleed seat to our best. We can be hard on ourselves – terribly hard. “Keep the faith,” we say. In truth, many don’t remember where along the road faith quietly slipped from their grasp and into the messiness of circumstance.

There is a victor in every story.

The victor doesn’t have to be the villain. When we devote our focus to being in accordance to the Spirit and offer practiced obedience to God, our obligation is not to our sinful nature but to being God’s children. God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:3). Sin does not become our death sentence. Instead, sin becomes a sentence blotted out by the grace of Christ Jesus in the testimony of our lives: a victorious love story.

I take the cup towel in my hand and watch the bubbles move forward. Drying my shirt, I glance back to the wall. The sign is no longer distorted, and I read aloud, “Keep the faith.”

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian Author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.