I (Amy) have in recent months been mulling over the concept of story. (maybe because I have a 3 yr. old storyteller around me all the time!)
I have a story.
You have a story.
Everyone we see has a story to tell, and most of the time we don't know what the story is.
I guess all of these thoughts about "story" began after we showed our college students the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" (Will Ferrell in a serious role...can you believe it?) to discuss how, like Will Ferrell, we are characters in a bigger story, and we are not the authors of it.
So much of my complaining and pain ultimately revolves around the fact that I want to be the author of my own story. I don't want the chapter with nagging health issues, I don't want the infertility chapter, I don't want the alopecia chapter, and so on. I struggle many times to have peace about the story that is being written for me. I'm sure we could all say that, right? And like Will Ferrel in the movie, I struggle to know if I can trust the Author of my story since I don't know how it's going to turn out. (but should my trust depend simply on how MY little story turns out? So if things work out to my liking, only THEN will I trust Him? How self-absorbed can I be?)
Recently a friend of mine has been sharing her story with me. Not just a basic life story, but the REAL story with all the ugliness and unseemly details. It is FASCINATING to listen to people's stories. We all have them to tell. Many of them are funny and light-hearted, and those seem to be the stories we "go to" with folks, aren't they? But what about the stories we don't feel like people want to hear, the stories that we otherwise try to hide or forget about? What about those stories that have truly shaped us into who we are today? I want to hear those stories.
It's in those chapters where we grow and change and never remain the same.
And when we slow down long enough to ask and to listen to people's hearts, we give them the gift to share, but we get the gift to know that person more fully.
My niece let me read a book called "Permission to Speak Freely" & I devoured it in one sitting. (extremely rare for me, let me tell ya!) In 2008, the author posed the question on her blog, "What is one thing you feel like you can't talk about in the church?" Well, as you can imagine, the responses started pouring in by the hundreds & thousands. Topic after topic, story after story, people shared what they felt they couldn't say about their stories, their struggles, their ideologies, their sin. In the introduction of the book, the question was asked, If Christians can't be themselves in church, then why go there? Why not go somewhere where they can?
These questions have fascinated me as of late as I think about each of us having a story. Can those of us who are Christians handle people's stories or ideas, even when they are vastly different from ours? What if they don't fit into the nice, neat box in which we think they ought? What is it that makes Christians have more of a reputation for judging and preaching than listening and empathizing and serving? What reaction do people receive from me when they begin to share, and do people feel they can be vulnerable enough to tell me their story?
God is the author of our stories. Ultimately, He is weaving together one big Story. Within each of our stories, there are chapters of conflict and suffering, chapters where we don't know what is happening or what is going to happen. Like dark chapters filled with endless amounts of painful infertility treatments, for example. But thankfully my story didn't stop there. It was through those terrible times of infertility (and it is TERRIBLE!) that one of the greatest stories in my life was brought forth-- our adoption of Caroline. God could not have authored a more wonderful story in that little glimpse of redemption! But in the midst of the infertility chapter, I couldn't see that.
If only every story of suffering could be redeemed this side of heaven like that. Unfortunately, there is much sadness. People die and they do not come back. (yet) Things fail or waste away or decline, and there is little or no reason for it. I don't know why our stories are the way they are. I don't know why, in my story, my daughter lost all of her hair at 21 months and we now live life bald. I am still having various health issues that keep me from normal activities and are actually currently keeping me from my vocation of violin playing. I don't understand why these things are apart of my story right now. I wouldn't have selected for myself, and it's not a story I want. I am still processing this chapter in life.
But I know that God has given me this story at this time, and it is mine to accept and grow from. Our stories can make us beautiful or bitter. I want mine to make me beautiful. And who knows where my story will take me in years to come or how it may (or may not) be redeemed in others' lives. We'll see what the Author has in mind.
And so the story continues...