Thursday, January 10, 2019

How are you doing in the story of your life?

I often thought it would be cool to write a book. I don't know, say a novel. For some reason they seem easier...unlike non-fiction that requires all that studying.

Until one day when I sat down and tried it. Yes, I know, that's a hilarious thought. No one decides one day to sit down and write a book. Not any sane person.

I remember sitting there and thinking, obviously, what should it be about? And the more I thought about it the worse the idea seemed...all the who, what, when, where, and why's were overwhelming.

And since then I've had great respect for anyone driven enough to put their thoughts together and spend the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to turn out any work worth reading.

People often say to me, You should write a book! And Lord knows I try so hard not to start guffawing right in their faces. Dear one, you have no idea. I don't have the training, or the dedication, or the desire to do so.

That's probably why I blog. It's short. It's sweet. It's to the point.

And I can be done in 2 hours or less.

Awhile back, I picked up one of Donald Miller's books at my favorite used book store: A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, and promptly added it to my pile of want-to-reads, where it remained until this week. When I bought his book I had no idea what it was about. But it had Donald Miller on the cover and I hadn't yet read it and that's all I needed to know.

Sometimes I need a dose of Donald Miller. Or Frederich Beuchner. Or Brennan Manning. Or Anne Lamott. Someone who others might might raise their eyebrows over, but who I think are spot on...

People who give me a dose of something out of my box...out of my comfort zone. People who call me to think in ways I have long forgotten. Or in new ways that I desperately need.

When our kids were little I would make up stories for them. We would lie on the bed at night and I would ramble away, often times making it up as I went. Some stories continued on and on. Others were mercifully short.

But the whole reason I did it was to teach them something...something the animal or the person learned through their adventures. I didn't think much about it. What popped into my mind, popped out of my mouth.

Over the years I've been through a lot of training that emphasizes story: how it can be used to reach people in a way that no other form can. Jesus did the form of parables.

Anyway, the premise of Don's book is that we are all in a story. Our very own story.

But like a poorly written we give up on because of weak character development, undefined plot, or no point whatsoever....our lives can lack intentionality, passion, and direction.

We drift from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year just trying to make it through without too much collateral damage.

Now, the point of a good story is character transformation. The same elements that make a book or movie meaningful are the ones that make life worth living.

Think Lord of the Rings.

We all love Sam-- he's faithful and hopeful and would literally go to the end of the world for Frodo.

But if everyone were like Sam, the book would be B-O-R-I-N-G.

A good character is called to face his greatest fears, and as readers or watchers, we are invited to walk alongside him...identify with him...weep and cheer him on as he faces his fears and weaknesses.

Think Frodo.

Called from a secure, blissful life in the Shire into the darkness of Mordor, Frodo is the one we can identify with. He's weak and yet strong...fearful and yet persevering...doubtful yet with a wavering hope. Every step he takes and every move he makes is making him into the Hobbit we cry over at the end.

And dear ones, so it is with us.

We can so easily forget that we, too, are in a story. That there is a Writer. And a Director. And a screenplay written for each of us.

"If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in My story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it as I have created you.

I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgement. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims, rather than grateful participants." Donald Miller

We are each called to our own story. And each of our stories is written to help us face our greatest fears...our greatest weaknesses...not only for our sake, but the blessing and encouragement of others.

“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”

“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam, “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”

“I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” 

― Tolkien J.R.R, The Lord of the Rings

How are you doing in the story of your life? Have you forgotten that you are in a story?

That each of us is in a tale that really matters? 

It can be so easy to forget this at times...that everything we are going through has a purpose...that the hard times and sad times and discouraging times are necessary...that they are written in intentionally and are not an act of forgetfulness on God's part.

We need to be reminded that we can trust in God and His screenwriting skills to bring forth a story that will glorify Him and help us to become the characters He knows we can be...

Characters that others will look to and read about: our kids, our grandchildren...people whom we have no idea are watching us...

Needing us to be put one foot in front of the other, be it in the tranquility and beauty of Rivendell or the scorching heat and heavy darkness of Mordor.

We are not called to destroy the Ring of Power.

But we are called to be faithful, so that others, too, will live out their stories.

I like to think that someday, you and I and a gazillion other people will sit around a well worn table with a quart of something good, telling our stories...laughing...crying...thumping each other on the back.

Glad that we're Home. 

And ever so thankful for the stories that He gave us.

Shine on, dear ones!

photo credit: LMRitchie <a href="">Writing- Pen & Paper</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

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