Yesterday afternoon I left the stack of textbooks on my kitchen table and opted for some couch time with the book. So far, it's hard to say where he is going (do you ever know with Donald?), but what he writes on the cover is what he learned while editing his life (narrows it down doesn't it? haha). The book is introduced around his experience collaborating with film directors about making a movie about one of his previous books, which essentially means that he gets to go back and 'tweak' the story he already lived.
The time spent with the movie writers makes him think more about stories, what makes a good story, why some stories don't make the cut, and how we all long for our lives to become stories... Stories that are significant. Stories worth sharing.
One statement that had me reach for my pen was this - Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than the master storyteller.
I thought about the truth of that phrase, based on the my own favourite stories...
The best stories always have great challenge and impossibility woven into them. Great stories aren't predictable. Stories that are told again have lessons to be learned. And of course, stories are always celebrated for the 'happily ever after'. No one likes an ending of heartbreak.
But a story isn't just a story for the happy ending... It's the fight and the tears and the strength of the character that builds the story up to an ending that is worth watching. So I agree with the idea that conflict and pain are necessary to build a 'real' story. And I want my life to be a good one.
The issue is when I go back to my own story, I'd like to skip over the day by day conflicts. The disappointments, the hurts, the pain, the fears, the struggles... When hard times come, I wish them away. I pity myself and look for a way out. I pray for a painless life, and yet in doing this I am going against the exact thing that I want in the end. A story worth telling. A legacy.
I fight against the storyteller... I deny His 'bigger picture'... I reach for His pen and insist on my way. To name a few: I tell Him that the whole earthquake-aftershock scenario was better left unwritten. I make suggestions that He should heal my eyes so that I do have to wear glasses anymore. I critique the romantic plotline of my life and doubt His promise of giving me the desires of my heart. I could go on about all of the changes that I would make to the story He is writing in my life. It would be so much easier if He did it MY way. But with a painless life, all I would end up with is another dusty book on the shelf. I can hear God saying, 'take your pick'.
The other day I had a conversation with a friend about God's purpose in pain. He has lived in the impoverished village of Sourcematelas all his life. A year and a half ago, his father passed away suddenly, leaving him as the 'man of the house' for his mother and 9 other brothers and sisters. He continued to press on, going to university in the city of Port-au-Prince and believing that someday God would raise him up as a leader in the country. When the earthquake hit, though his family members were spared, he lost his home, he lost many friends, and his hope of graduating with a degree in a year in a half was left hanging in the balance.
My problems look like a walk in the park compared to the pain that he has experienced so far in his life. And yet through it all, he looked at me confidently and said, 'God is still good'. Although he may never understand all of the pain that he has lived through on this earth, he chooses to trust that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that He is good.
I want a faith like that.
I want a story like that.
I want to believe that God is good, and that He is telling a story of our lives that is so much bigger than where I sit today. Not for my sake, but for His sake.
As Donald Miller writes, God is the master storyteller. The Academy Award winners and Blockbuster hits are nothing compared to the plot line that he has designed for each of our lives. No doubt, His story will involve heartbreak, it will involve struggle and impossibility, but only to make our ending all the sweeter and His glory all the greater. As my youth pastor once said to me, I have a feeling that the journey has very little to do with our dreams and plans. God is going to wreck you and when there is nothing left... there's Jesus!
Isn't that what it's all about? Our story is about redemption and beauty and healing and grace and salvation and love. It takes all the blood, guts and tears inside of me to believe that there is a bigger story being told, but in moments like this it's undeniable:
I stood in church holding baby Hannah this morning... The same baby Hannah that came to the mission last June weighing less than 4 pounds and fit perfectly between my wrist and elbow. She now takes all the muscle in my two arms plus an arch in my back to hold for the duration of 2 songs, but she leaned in snugly as I sang along with the congregation, 'Senye ou bon e lanmou'w ap dire pou tout tan' (Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever).
It was one of those moments where you wish time would stand still. The Lord's presence was so evident to me as I reflected on the beauty of the reality I was standing in. Another page of blessing that I never want to forget.
God is love and truth and goodness, and in faith He will bring us to the end of a story that will leave us breathless and abandoned to His presence. Someday I hope to collapse at His feet, and hear the celebration song of angels. And it will be the only beginning of a new story that starts with 'happily ever after'.