Today I want to step aside and let you hear from my son, Dane. I know I might be biased, but he has a way with words and this time is no exception. As I process the things as I go through life these thoughts resonate with me.
I have a sticky note pasted on my bible that says, “This is a STORY, not an ENCYCLOPEDIA.” Because I forget.
I forget that a million Israelites wandering a desert in the Middle-East for 40 years is not about wandering the desert, but about how God sometimes takes long seasons to change our hearts in the ways they need to be changed.
I forget that Solomon being made the richest and wisest man in history by God because he asked for wisdom, not money or fame, is not about some up-and-coming king that got a little extra help from God, but about God’s desire for our hearts to be in the right place.
I forget that Jesus coming, performing miracles, dying, and coming back to life is not just about a man from heaven who helped a lot of people and cheated death. It’s about the creator of the universe loving a planet full of messed-up people enough to come and exist among them, so far outside his comfort zone, caring about them so much that he didn’t care how broken or sinful they were. He came and loved them anyway.
And I forget that my life is a story, and that this continuous struggle back and forth is not about self-control or my ability to be moral, but about my heart being changed, about God calling me to move forward and not backward.
Why do we forget that our lives are stories? Stories make perfect sense. The characters don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but when we turn the final page, we can see how each event was important, however dark it was. Take Judas. One of the saddest parts about Jesus’s story is how one of his disciples — no, one of his closest friends — sold him out, despite everything that the thirteen of them had been through together. And yet, if Judas hadn’t done what he did, then things would not have happened as they were meant to.
But no, our lives aren’t a story. They’re just a jumbled mess of random events that are the result of events set in motion a long time ago, and nothing really means anything. There is no reason that God didn’t save someone’s mom from cancer, or that the homeless man downtown lost everything he owned. We’re down here, and He’s up there, and who really knows why anyway?
And we believe that’s what the truth about life is. But…really?
I guess that’s what memory is for.
Thinking back, I can see that the pastors tearing down my dad for not living up to their standards — an event I didn’t witness, and don’t wish I had — resulted in my family seeking out a church. A seemingly random Facebook ad, a subtle nudge from God to my mom, and then Mosaic. Uncertainty. And every week, through uncertainty, Mosaic. And healing. New friends. Close friends. A wonderful place for my parents, and a wonderful place for me, though it took some getting used to. The closest friends I’ve ever had in my short life made there, people I would trust with my life if it ever came to that, and almost none of them are my age. But they’re exactly what I needed (and still do).
And books. Books suggested by a fellow Christian kid met only a few times at a church youth group out in the country. Books that changed my life, my view of God and Christianity. And he became my friend (my best friend, in fact).
So many experiences, wonderful and not so wonderful, set off by the most insignificant of events. A quick message to someone I’ve never met before. Popping by for a random visit at a friends’ house, just as they are leaving to youth group. So many different places, so many different wonderful people and lessons learned, and God.
There’s no way any of those things was an accident. And there’s no way that there isn’t a God watching out for me. The trick is knowing when and where he’s pointing. I’ve been granted the grace to be guided mostly by the actions of others and what seems like happy chance (but is really Jesus bringing something I desperately needed into my life), but now it feels like he wants me to take my first real steps on my own. And I’m scared. And angry. Angry that responsibility would be thrust on me, responsibility I feel I can’t bear, and why couldn’t life just be about surviving, or could I even just skip life and go Home? But no. And at the same time…I’m tremendously honored, and shocked. You want…me? But…I could never do that. But I want to. I want to help in that way. I want to bless like I’ve been blessed, pass on these rare lessons I’ve learned. And I’m confused. What’s the next step? Here or there? When? How? So I ask, and wait.
This life is a story, if we’ll just look for the chapters, the major events. Some people’s stories are happy. Some people’s stories are sad, but that doesn’t mean the Savior’s handwriting isn’t all over the manuscript. What about the man that was born blind that Jesus healed?
“‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or the his parents’ sins?’
‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.'” – (John 9:2-3)
This man’s story was characterized by a disability, and probably a certain degree of estrangement from his friends and family. Definitely a sad story. But there was a reason. The bad in our lives isn’t God trying to get back at us for doing bad things, or him just not caring. Pain is a necessary prerequisite to beauty, more often than not. That doesn’t mean that God cares. And that doesn’t mean that we should just brush off pain, as if it doesn’t even matter. It matters. Anyone who has ever been in pain (in other words, every human being who ever lived) will tell you that. It hurts when your marriage doesn’t work out, when your best friend dies, when you’re laid off and have no hope of providing for your family. God does care that it hurts. And he’s doing it for a reason.
“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” – (Romans 8:17-19)
Ultimately, this is about God’s glory. Which we will share in. The pain will all be worth it.
Life is a story. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad. But every event has meaning, although we can’t see it right now.
Life matters. Pain matters. You matter. Don’t give up just yet. There’s a reason for everything. It will be worth it.
Dane is my oldest son and he writes over here at A Sword For The Kingdom. Check it out!