What Your Metaphors Reveal About You


One of my favorite metaphors is in Alice Walker’s essay, Beauty, When the Other Dancer is the Self. In it, she writes about her blind eye, a result of a BB gun injury from one of her brothers. She charts her relationship to her blind scarred eye, from painful adolescence to the moment when her little girl first notices it. “You have a world in your eye,“ says her daughter, carefully observing what is left of the scar tissue. All at once, her eye becomes a metaphor for the internal worlds inside Walker that have grown because of the injury. I have posted a link at the end so you can read her revelatory work for yourself.

But we all have our internal metaphors that we must explore, and the Bible is full of them as well. Jacob’s ladder, the parting of the Red Sea, the wilderness, and of course, the cross are some of my favorites. For me, Alice in Wonderland served as a deeply implanted metaphor. I did not realize until I was an adult why that book held my attention and when I did see it, it was not good.

Alice goes through a world full of crazy and mostly unfriendly beings. Nothing and no one around her is safe and in this chaotic world, she is quite alone. This is how I felt, especially in my early childhood where bullies would take me miles from home and leave me to find my way back. I believe I did not make any real friends until I went to a little Lutheran parochial school in the fourth grade.

Now I no longer identify with Alice in Wonderland. The little girl lost in the maze of the world lies in my distant past. And thank metaphorsgoodness! It took me years to shed the people in my life that were unsafe, but like Alice, I suppose, I have reshuffled the Queen of Hearts and her house of cards and drawn better ones.

Dreams are often the containers of these metaphors, whether from God or our subconscious. I remember a vivid dream that came about six months before I left my abusive first husband. I kept trying to leave the house. I wanted to get things done or travel but every time I made a move to leave, a ghostly white hand would grab my elbow and yank me back. I knew there was something I needed to know about this dream.

Finally, after reliving it in my mind over and over, I heard the word stronghold.

I couldn’t help but laugh. The hand with its firm grip and vicious yank backward represented a stronghold of fear. I felt stupid for not getting it sooner. And after twelve years of serious emotional and verbal abuse, I suffered under an intense stronghold of fear.

Now my current metaphor is pilgrimage. I move almost every year, and every place I go has a key to my destiny. I learn something important every step of this tumultuous journey I am on with my husband. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, I am on my way to the Celestial City, and oh boy, am I absorbing a lot on the way. Speaking of metaphors, that book is chock full, so much so that the whole story is an allegory.

So how do you discover what are your resonant metaphors? A little time and some self-reflection will probably teach you things you already know but didn’t know you knew. You know what I mean?

Ask yourself these questions and you will begin to unearth some of the metaphorical treasures that help us to make meaning of our lives.

  1. What stories really speak to you? Stories appeal to us because ‘deep calls to deep’. For a long time, Jacob wrestling with God meant a lot to me. I even have a very painful hip injury that surfaces with stress. I have wrestled metaphorsand wrestled with God so much, demanding answers and blessings from Him. And yes, He won. But Jacob was blessed in the end. Definitely one of my resonant metaphors.
  2. What is your name? I think names have a prophetic effect on us. My name, Alice, means truth. As a longtime victim of domestic violence, I am well acquainted with lying. Prevarication of the highest order is required to cover up a home life that is a living torture. My greatest freedoms have come from telling the truth. Now I value it highly and try to live up to my name.

I find, however, that many people bear their names as a heavy burden. Like me, one of the areas they struggle most with is the meaning of their name. Find out the meaning of your name and look long and hard at its significance in your life.

  1. What are you attracted to? My favorite color is green. A color of new life and growth, the color green is soothing to me. I am on a constant search for personal and spiritual growth. It is in my DNA somehow. I have the luck of having a bedroom window that looks out on trees. Sunlight filters in through the bright green leaves that move from the wind, casting moving patterns of light and shadow on my bed. The only thing more soothing is the sound of the ocean.
  2. What stories do you tell? How you are featured in your own stories about yourself can really reveal a great many metaphors. But even the stories you tell about others can expose your metaphors. My ex-husband had really just one family story he would tell. In it, his grandfather is urging his then thirteen-year-old father to jump off the fence. He tells him that he will catch him. Instead, he lets his son fall to the ground and tells him to never trust anyone.

When my ex would tell this story, he laughed and laughed, but I knew the truth. Emotional and verbal abuse was handed metaphorsdown from father to son in that family, damaging their ability to love and trust anyone. In the case of my ex, the damage is tragic and irreparable. They never had anyone love them enough to catch them when they jumped.

God often speaks to us in metaphors. I remember when a young woman at a Bible study I attended kept finding two shiny new dimes in random places; the floor of her car, the grocery store, and once on a random seat at the movies. She felt like she was supposed to learn something from this recurring twenty cents. The pastor looked at her and started laughing. God is telling you that you need a new paradigm he told her.

I found it funny at the time, but now, I see my metaphors as revealing to me my relationship to meaning and myself. If the metaphor is painful, I need to work on it. If it is good, then I delve into it, mining it for treasures. And if you need a powerful argument for studying your Bible (or even if you don’t), the primary metaphor operational in the Bible is incarnation.

God, who is spirit, manifests in the person of Jesus, who dwells in us with His Holy Spirit. We become Christ-like. Christ similes or Christ metaphors. Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Do you want to know what Jesus is like? Hopefully, that is you. If not, you might start weeding your metaphorical garden.

Here are a few of my favorite books on meaning:

Have a problem with food? This book explains the resonant metaphor of a hungry soul and what to do about it. Seriously one of the best books I have read on the topic.




What Our Childhood Memories Reveal About Us


17 Replies to “What Your Metaphors Reveal About You”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this … reflecting on my life I was just realizing the recurring patterns of good and bad and it all had to do with the metaphors of my life. I have taken a pinch of this to work on me through prayer. God bless

  2. As another truthful one, my name Alicia, (Alice in Spanish) I relate on so many levels here. I believe the enemy sets out to cause us to walk in the opposite of who we are (truth vs deceit). Thankful I’m no longer in that abusive first marriage, and grateful for a hubby who looks like Jesus on the inside. And eternally in gratitude for our Redeemer who rescues and saves. Thanks for sharing!

  3. keisharussell84 says: Reply

    You out did yourself on this one, Alice! I connected so deeply with “What is your name.” In all actuality I have always loved my name, but I have not really reflected on the meaning. Keisha is derived from the Hebrew name Keziah, one of Job’s daughters in the Bible. When I found this out, I began to study the meaning of my name in-depth. Keisha means “great joy.” That has totally opened my eyes today. I needed to read this.

  4. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Really thought provoking as always! I’m still chewing on a lot of this. Probably will for a few days – you have a gift for doing that to me! 🙂
    I loved what you said about names! I have always believed that names are really important. I was so careful when naming my children to be intentional. I see that in Scripture. Names meant so much. I didn’t want to underestimate their power. It’s one of the few reasons I wish I didn’t blog anonymously. I would love to share my children’s name stories, because they are beautiful and have played out so amazingly as they’ve grown!

  5. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    It’s so sad that a 13-year-old who jumped off a fence was lied to that he would be caught, only to become physically harmed and told not to trust anyone. I feel that the majority of men have been trained to harm, and they slobber after harm because of pornography. They end up seeing their wives as pieces of excrement to be harmed and not loved. Then they blink with innocence. I know very few Christian men who actually love their wives. We are in the end times, where people lack all conscience.

  6. My husband just recently help the kids all look up the meanings of their names. So fun. On the other hand, only God can heal scars that are embedded deep within our souls. We actually just talked about that in Sunday school yesterday. And sometimes, we need the scars. They make us who we are and become part of our testimony of how great our God is.

  7. Such a great read, Alice. When I was young I struggled with the meaning of Melissa. It’s Greek for bee. It didn’t feel very special or important. I also didn’t like any of the nicknames family or friends would give me. I’m not a “Missy” but I didn’t like “Mel” or “Mellie”. It wasn’t until my husband and I started dating that he started calling me “My-Lissa”. Such a sweet and intimate name. I also know that all of the books I liked when I was younger were pretty melancholy and forlorn – Jane Eyre was my favorite. Books where the main character was overlooked and viewed as less than, yet had a strong intelligence and perseverance. So good to ponder!

  8. That’s so interesting. I’d never thought about the stories we tell, and hold onto as stories that reveal something about ourselves but it makes sense. I remember my dad telling me the funniest stories growing up. Some of them had to do with accidentally getting hurt. The way he would tell them was so funny. I learned to laugh when I accidentally was hurt and not focus on the negative side. I do that in so many areas of my life. Interesting to think that it may have all stemmed from his stories.

  9. So much of your heart is here! I absolutely love the call to metaphors, and great questions to guide you there! Currently in search of the new “metaphor theme” in my life – such encouragement!

  10. Oh How I love this! And how I have related to it in so many ways! I had a reoccurring dream, When I was married to my first husband. I was always home alone with my children in the dream (mostly in real life too) the dream differed at the next point but always simular. There were people outside on our land, usually partying, drunk, rowdy. I was always scared, hiding myself and my children. Watching out the window wondering if they would come to the house. Because if they did they would find that my door was unlocked. The last time I had the dream. I was divorced. That time I saw a Familiar face in the crowd and I knew who it was. It was my ex-husband. But now my door was locked.

    1. I shared a dream yesterday. But wanted to come back today and share a excerpt from the book Hinds Feet In high places by Hannah Hubbard. This piece always stays with me and reminds me that the day to day of this world is not reality, but what I have experienced in the spirit of God is. A truth that keeps me going.

      Hinds feet on High Places – On one such occasion the shepherd said to Much Afraid “When you continue your journey there may be much mist and cloud. Perhaps it may even seem as though everything you have seen here, on the high places, was just a dream or the work of your own imagination. But you have seen reality, and the mist that seems to swallow it up is the illusion.

  11. I love this. So much. Thank you! My name is Joy and I love to write about joy. On my blog and in some of my books I tell my own stories – because they are mine to tell. I’m falling in love with the stories of my family – those who have already left here for heaven. . .and it seems as if they’ve been given to me to tell them – otherwise they will be gone. I am their last voice.

  12. Vert interesting, I need to get some more info on my name and my favorite color! I love to learn, and this perspective is very intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed! Many Thanks! 8)

  13. This is powerful I will be more keen to discover my metaphor. I think this is just beautiful

  14. I’ve been having dreams of either orcas hunting my family or trying to take a shower out in the open where everyone can see me. I feel vulnerable and easy prey. I’m also dealing with a medical professional who violated my trust and has been very predatory in going after my money. Honestly I feel like I have no advocate because I cannot afford to lawyer up. So I’m bringing all these anxieties to God in prayer; He is my tower and safe refuge!

  15. Loved reading this!! I never thought about metaphors before. It does make me think… my name is Marlie Love. Usually people associate Marlie with “Bob Marley”.. a man of love. And now my last name is Love… and I honestly embody my name. A life coach that teaches about God’s love.. I love it (pun intended lol).

  16. Dear Alice

    I loved your blog post “What Your Metaphors Reveal About You”.

    Metaphors are powerful; as you say, the Bible is also filled with them.

    My favourite sentence in this particular blog post:

    “Dreams are often the containers of these metaphors, whether from God or our subconscious.”

    Metaphors help us to get a hold on what’s abstract; I use metaphors actively in my writings and have classified them as different areas of life; this helps me to think more clearly and communicate better when I write.

    My favourite story in the Bible is the story of Joseph. The story contains many elements; victory, hate, problem-solving, love, forgiveness.

    What I especially like the way you blog is that I feel you have a story to tell and you share ‘experiences’ rather than ‘meanings’.

    And your blog has a great layout.

    I’ll give it a share Friday, November 10 on my social media channels.

    Edna Davidsen

Tell me what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: