It seems we can easily be so caught up in our living that we miss the story that we are creating in the midst of God’s much larger story. Too often we think of the word “story” and the old “once upon a time” words come to mind, but our stories are so much more than the fairytales that open with such words.
I was reminded of that truth once again as I read these words of Lisa Wingate in her novel, The Storykeeper:
“Our stories are powerful. They teach, they speak, they inspire. They bring about change. But they are also fragile. Their threads are so easily broken by time, by lack of interest, by failure to understand the value that comes from knowing where we have been and who we have been. In this speed-of-light culture, our histories are fading more quickly than ever. Yet when we lose our stories, we lose ourselves…”
Moment by moment we are moving toward the next day, the next thing, the next goal, or the next prayer.
Do we focus on the dark times, the deep valleys, the mistakes, and the disappointments or do we only look at the victories and goals achieved?
If we choose only the best or the worst, we do so to our detriment and miss how God used each in the story to point to Him. Our perspective about each of those comes from the context the whole of our story provides.
It is often only in hindsight we discover some of the nuggets of God’s working, how He chose to answer each prayer, and how his timing was better than ours, his answer the better one.
It’s then we realize that the poor choices we made in the past didn’t need to define us and He could show us better choices were possible now and empower us to make them. And perhaps we might come to understand that He has chosen us to be a part of HIS story, HIS grand story.
He wants us to learn from the story, the testament He left for us to point the way.
The mistakes we make are the very ones that teach us the most, that shape our character, and highlight the Lord’s grace and light, his mercy and love. If we choose not to pay attention, not to learn from them, we do so at our peril.
History has always been a favorite subject of mine. I find most of it fascinating and revelatory. It shows the tendency of humankind to ignore it and fall prey to misery many times over.
The basic principle is actually quite straightforward, and Paul sums it up perfectly in his epistle to Galatians:
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)
That grand gift God gave mankind at the very outset – freedom of choice – has been what we stumble over again and again. We want to indulge ourselves with that heady gift of freedom to say what we wish, do what we want and often with no regard to the consequences for ourselves or anyone else. We want to do what the lyrics of the song made famous by Frank Sinatra speak of – “my way.”
One thing that might help us is to grapple with this truth John Eldredge penned in Walking with God:
“Don’t let this throw you. Things may not unfold the way you think they will when you’re following God. Remember – he is after both our transformation and our joy. The one hangs upon the other.”
If you are tempted to shun your story or believe it is of no value, look at the heroes of the faith, look at the legends of history. They have much to teach us.
“Every single one of us – even the boldest among us – will at times deny Him, or fall asleep, or fall away in our own ways. Even our greatest commitment to Him is not enough.
But still, His covenant is greater. It is not dependent on our ability to answer the questions with courage, to do the right thing, or even to keep the commitment in faith. Jesus knows that in our human brokenness, we simply cannot do it on our own. So, He made a way. He took on our shame and our sin to be with us.”
Eric and Kristen Hill in The First Breakfast
And that is the very best story we could ever be a part of.