What's The Story Driving You?

Quincy Brown


This month marks the 25th anniversary of my ordination in the United Methodist Church. Over the years, I’ve gathered several stories from my appointments to congregations and extension ministries beyond the local church. My ministry experience includes St. Paul Summit Street, Gainesville First United Methodist, Gainesville Urban Ministries, LaGrange College, LaGrange First, Warren Temple, Impact Church, Threshold Church (under New Church Development), Peachtree City, and now the District Superintendent (DS) of the Atlanta Decatur Oxford District. Through my appointments, I’ve experienced stories of grace, support, challenge, hope, pain, forgiveness, and redemption.
*Imagine my shock when I discovered that unknowingly lurking underneath my behavior and desire to help churches was an “operative narrative.” This unconscious story operates like a continuously playing, metaphorical scratched CD that starts over and over and represents the story that drives me. Like most operative narratives, our stories develop in childhood. Allow me to share an episode from my father’s life to demonstrate how operative narratives originate and can hold significant influence over our lives.
Daddy (Q.D.) was twelve minutes younger than his twin sister, Ruby Lee. His father (L.D.) was a sharecropper, and as the story goes, when the landowner could no longer make money on cotton in Georgia, my family moved with the lease owner to the Tar Heel state to pick tobacco. Being the third sibling out of four, and the second male, Daddy was in the shadow of his brother, with whom he had a strained relationship. He had to hide his only pair of overalls and tube socks so that his brother would not steal them. His efforts to thwart his brother’s thievery and coming of age during the Great Depression (he was born in 1930), turned him into a hoarder. To Daddy, we could never have enough of anything. Our basement felt more like a mini -Sam’s Club than a home because we always had shelves full of toilet paper, mouthwash, soap, and soft drinks.
When Daddy died, I would find years’ worth of unworn ties and unopened shirts that I bought him for Father’s Day and Christmas. For him and many of his Korean War comrades, resources were always scarce, and they were afraid of not having enough to fill their wants and needs. This fear isolated him, and he became a loner.
Like many young boys during this time, Daddy found solace in the Saturday matinee Western cliffhangers. It wasn’t until I was eight years old that I discovered that Daddy wasn’t a cowboy! After all, he could spin his Colt 45s as if he lived in the Old West.
The operative narrative of the hoarder who never had enough influenced the rest of my Daddy’s life. And thanks to Daddy’s operative story, I was prepared for Y2K with an abundance of supplies some twenty years before it was a thing!
My father’s experience is not an isolated one, and you, too, have wounds that form an operative narrative. As insignificant as an older brother stealing his younger brother’s clothes may seem, this story, like many others, has a profound impact. The operative narrative holds enormous energy and influence on our individual and collective behavior. What is the story driving you?

*This blog includes excerpts taken from my book Discipleship Path: Guiding Congregations to Connect with Jesus.


On the Journey,

This illustration by Ross Boone (Raw Spoon) is meant to encourage racial unity in communication, mutual understanding, and healing. We are the same body of Christ. We breathe the same breath of our Creator. You can find this art at RawSpoon.com/art

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