It can be easy to think we know our stories – at least for the most part. We can start through a timeline from the time we were born to the present and list various key things to share depending on whom we wish to tell. And over the years we learn more about ourselves, things that don’t go on a timeline and gain from lived experience and what we discover along the way.
Part of that discovery is growing to makes choices about what will define us despite all the other people and forces that want to shape us. It means discovering who we were meant to be. Even though we thought we knew at big event markers like graduations, jobs or professions, weddings, etc., the quest is truly to become who we were meant to be.
Patti Callahan Henry describes it this way in one of her novels:
“You see there are moments in life when the smallest action leads to the biggest changes. We don’t know – none of us – when those moments are happening. We understand only when we look to the past, and sometimes not even then.”From The Perfect Love Song
It’s only later, looking in the review mirror, that we can get glimpses of the unseen moments, things, places, and people who have influenced those actions.
When we are very young, we believe we are the ones making the choices independently and that leads to the temptation to take the credit or the blame without seeing the complex interplay of so many pieces of the puzzle that is us.
One of the challenges in so many of our relationships is that we often only know that person in the now or recent years. We miss all the things that have shaped this person and the deeper understanding of who they are as well as why they are who they are. What a treasure to have even a few relationships where we can know such things. How much we could gain if we knew the before.
As I was reading and considering this, I was fascinated by what Eugene Peterson wrote about this:
“Apart from the before, the now has little meaning. The now is only a thin slice of who I am, isolated from the rich deposits of before, it cannot be understood.”From Run with the Horses
How profound a truth Peterson writes in this quote! Even when we are older and have perhaps been married for a long time as my husband and I have, it would seem we know everything and yet we discover little slivers of things even now.
Just a bit later, Peterson fleshes out that statement:
“The before is the root system of the visible now. Our lives cannot be read as a newspaper reports on current events; they are unabridged novels with character and plot development, each paragraph essential for mature appreciation.”From Run with the Horses
But the priceless truth is there is One who knew me before. We see that clearly in Psalm 139 when the psalmist writes these words:
“For you formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!Psalm 139: 13-14 (TPT)
Do you see? God knows me – God knows you – in the before. He knows each of us before the timeline we can recite. He knows things we cannot even begin to fathom because He created us for a part, a special part He is inviting us to play. When we are born, we arrive in the midst of a story that is already going on. It is not only the story of our birth and family of origin, but God’s story.
Yes, we have choices, but He has created each one of us and when we enter the story and the role we play is special indeed.
Once again Eugene Peterson expands our perception as he writes:
“Before it ever crossed our minds that God might be important, God singled us out as important. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. We are known before we know.”From Run with the Horses
And then this…
“The story into which life fits is already well on its way when we walk into the room. It is an exciting, brilliant, multi voiced conversation.”From Run with the Horses
If we can remember this, it can begin to give us a glimpse of God’s perspective, even though we can catch only a glimpse as the created ones as compared to the One who has created the whole story that unfolds moment by moment into eternity.