All of us, no matter how humble, sees ourselves as the protagonist of our own story. No matter how dark and twisted our path may become, even by our own choice, we will always see that we instigated the good things in our lives and that the bad that occurs “happens” to us, rather than being the duly earned consequences of our own actions.
It was only a few years back, and I know this because it was during one of those rare periods in my life when I was journaling and recorded it, that I realized that life is a pattern of overlapping stories, and while I may be the hero of my own epic, I play a role in many other stories around me as well. It wrote it like this, “ I realized today how self centered it is to assume that new people in my life are being brought here by God to help and shape me, instead of me being brought to them.”
This morning I had one of those rare moments of clarity which typically happen in the still moments in life when my mind is quiet enough for me to hear that anyone else is in the picture. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth had woken me up a few minutes after seven,( a bit early for me, still functioning as I do on theatre people time which doesn't really get started good until the sun goes down, ) to remind me that she was working at the zoo today in her capacity as a junior curator. It's a volunteer position that required three interviews and an essay to get.
As I was driving her to the zoo, listening to her descriptions of the things she gets to do and the people she is getting to know it occurred to me that this particular scene in my life, was a chapter from her book more than my own. To her, these memories will hold a place similar to my own memories of my own first job in a dry cleaner's. It made me proud in a way that is not easy to describe. I realized that I was here, not to teach or advise, but simply to listen and be her friend in that moment.
In his book “ A Million Miles in a Thousand Years;” Donald Miller compares the scenes of our life to a story. He suggests that those who choose their own stories are more fulfilled, and that it is necessary for us to find some adventure, or quest or crusade to champion in order to have a really great life. He sums it up like this, If you were to die tomorrow, how many lives would be completely disrupted if you did not fulfill your mission? It's an interesting question, isn't it? Many of us measure by how many people would mourn our passing in a personal way, but what about ministry, or service, whatever you choose to call it. Are you centrally involved in anything that is life changing for others? If not, why not?
Here is where I have to confess that I have not finished the last few chapters of this book, not because I don't want to, on the contrary, I haven't had much in the way of uninterrupted reading time lately, because I am being called into a bigger story, by a story teller who really knows what makes a great story. In this story I am a man who started out in life to make the kind of changes that Miller is challenging me to, but I got side tracked. The institution (church) that I had wanted so much to be part of disintegrated, I lost my place, and I lost my will to continue down the course I had set.
Now I find myself right back in a similar place. The planets seem to be spinning out of alignment, the earth is shaking under my very feet. People are literally fleeing the destruction and havoc that has been wreaked by the bad choices of a few. Others are standing on the sidelines lobbing verbal grenades at these poor choice makers and anyone who dares to attempt rebuilding anything that was blown apart by these choices. But, this time, instead of giving up, getting discouraged and finding a hole from which to curse the changes, I am running in, shoring up the walls, holding up the hands of the weary and offering my help in any capacity!
I have decided that not only am I interested in creating better stories for myself, but I also want to be one of those memorable side characters that show up for a moment, but impact the story so much for the better that you can't forget them, in as many stories as God will give me a part in.
Jesus said he did not come to seek those that were not lost, or to heal those that were not sick. It is time for us to remember why we were saved in the first place, to bring hope and love into the dark and hurting corners of the world. Here's a little secret: That's where all the best stories start!
In a cupboard under the stairs
In an old wardrobe
In a dingy Egyptian prison
In a dirty Palestinian stable on a cold winter night
So, what are you waiting for?
Got a story you'd like to share, or need someone to be part of? Tell me about it!