i was picking up my dry-cleaning the other day, a more mundane event you would be hard-pressed to find, when i had this feeling. and i say feeling because it was not that i heard a voice. i didn’t hear a voice so much as i felt the words. pressing upon me. in a way i could not escape if i tried. they were just there.
there is a story being told. some people believe in it. some people do not. but there is a story being told.
and it was through those words that i was encouraged to know all of this is on purpose. that this flow of forward movement, age, life and all that we call it. and everything that comes with it. it is all on purpose. all of it. it is happening for a reason. it is not mere coincidence.
and i felt as though He was reminding me that He is telling a story. through all of this. all the time. all around us. even through us. and that thought, that it is His story being told, was incredibly uplifting. particularly when things appear so very much out of control.
telling my story
i traveled to portland this past weekend to work on a video project. i had never been to portland before, but i really enjoyed it. it was one of those cities that felt familiar, even though you’ve never been there before.
i had recently shared an article with a friend of mine about a contest. it was a contest inviting people to share how they are trying to tell a better story with their life. it was to include a character, a challenge and how the character overcame the challenge. all in 90 seconds. the contest was based on a recent book by donald miller, a book with the theme of telling a better story through the lives we live interwoven throughout its pages. a theme i’ve referenced here before.
the contest just happened to come at a fitting time. i had recently gone through a pretty incredible challenge, and, after sharing this article with my friend, he told me i had to do it (the contest). after consenting, and punching out a script (and refining the script, and refining it some more), we got a hold of another friend of his who, for some reason, agreed to help us with filming. i say “for some reason” because, being familiar with the film production process, i knew 90 seconds of video would mean days of work.
so we left for portland. and it was incredible. the opportunity to tell my story. to build a character, out of my experiences, and then to put to words the story of this challenge. and it wasn’t until 11:30 that saturday night, after shooting all day, when i found myself sitting on a stool in the middle of an impromptu film studio, surrounded by lights and people i had met only hours before, and pouring out my heart, sharing experiences that i hadn’t even shared with some of my closest friends, that i saw, clearly, just how God has been working through my life to tell His story. and how His hand has been over it all, at all times, for His purposes to be worked out. even when it was all so unclear to me.
a fitting message
it was during that same weekend that we visited imago dei, a church just outside of portland, with another friend. the church meets in a local school building. an old school building. the kind that makes you feel kind of like a kid in the 1950’s. with tiled bathroom floors and walls. lots of wood throughout. and a musty smell that seems as old as the school it resides in. the church services are held in the auditorium. a wide room with tall ceilings and two floors. the second floor is an open balcony, with u-shaped seating looming over the wooden chairs beneath it. the stage, the columns, the floor, all wood. all old.
after several songs had played, with the young congregation’s voices resounding off of the room’s walls, a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties took the stage to deliver the morning’s message. and the message spoken during that sunday morning’s church service could not have been more fitting for the place in life i found myself.
the voice came from a man who seemed more like the kind of guy you might know from your fantasy football league than the type who would be preaching onstage. but he delivered each soft-spoken word with careful, thoughtful consideration. allowing each word to settle in easily, and not taking for granted the weight behind topics such as Christ’s resurrection and His miracles. the delivery was authentic in a way that is hard to describe. like he wasn’t trying to hide or sell anything. and i appreciated it. all of it.
but i appreciated the last 10 minutes of it most. for it was there that He began talking about what God is doing in this world. in all of the ugliness and brokenness that we’ve grown accustomed to. and he talked about how we grow so used to our lives that we miss out on what He is doing. even the miraculous.
calm and collected, he spoke these words, “have you compartmentalized what God can do? have you quit living? or have you never dared to trust that you could live in the midst of miracle? this is all miracle. that the God who created the world entered into creation to die for your sins… to forgive you and bring you into this relationship. by His Holy Spirit. pouring His love into your heart.”
and that one shook me up, striking me pretty deep. only hours before, i had found myself perched upon a stool sharing the ways in which He has shown Himself in my life. the ways in which He has worked through my life – the life of one who came from such meager means – to tell His story. ways in which i never thought possible.
i was moved. visibly. because i was reminded that He is about the miraculous. even when we lose hope. even when that thing before us is so daunting that we find ourselves frozen in fear. He is still at work. in those moments. He is still doing mighty things. through us. through you. through me.
and he continued, “would we dare to pray. dare to dream. dare to attempt something bold and scary and full of faith and risk.” and he reminded us of what Jesus said in the book of john. “if you believe in Me.”
telling His story
i was reminded that morning, in the surroundings of this old school building’s auditorium, that His story is being told. and that He is working through us. each of us. to tell this story.
and it looks differently in my life than it does in yours. because He is working through you differently than He is through me. because you are different than me. and i am different than the next person.
He works through us in very practical ways. using the gifts He has given each of us to tell His story. with you, He may use your talents on the piano, and your voice, to share a bit of His beauty and His grace with those around you. He may use your neighbor’s kind spirit and generosity to hint at His own attentiveness and generosity. and He may use yet another person’s ability to put one word after another, in flowing sentences that paint beautiful portraits of Him, to communicate different attributes of His character.
and even though He is the same God, He is communicating His story in different ways, depending on who He is working through. just as the same voice sounds different when it travels through a flute than it does through a trombone. it is not the Voice that is changing, it is merely a reflection of the instrument being used.
lewis put it so well when he said, “He makes each soul unique. if He had no use for all these differences, i do not see why He should have created more souls than one… each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any creature can.” (the problem of pain, p.147, 150)
each of us reflect His story in different ways, but the story itself does not change. He is still telling the same story. and we hear echoes of it, all over the world. two thousand years after it happened. that a Father who desired to bring back His wayward children to Himself. to make right His childrens’ wrongs. sent His only begotten Son, the only Son who perfectly reflected His own glory. Who was, in fact, a part of Himself. to pay our price. to redeem us. to bring us back to Himself.
this same story, His story, is still capturing hearts. He is still making His home in new believers’ lives, because this story is being told.
you may not be aware of it, but i am confident He is using you to tell His story. and, as a character in the story, it may be difficult to see just how. in the same way that the character of hamlet was not aware of the way in which his story was being told through the work titled after him, you are not aware of all the details of the role in which your character plays in His story. for, if you were, then you would be looking at this story from above. but, as it stands, you are not.
however, there is a sense in which we are given a peak at the script, so that we already know the most important scenes of each act. we know the beginning. we know the end. and we know the highlights in-between. what is in-between is where we currently find ourselves. but in-between does not mean unimportant. in fact, the place you currently find yourself is directly in-between the point at which He left and the point at which He will return. there is a direct line of time connecting these two points, and that is where we currently find ourselves.
our lives are not being lived out in parallel to His story. rather, they are a part of His story. and we shall not see just how until it is complete, but that does not mean it is not so. that does not mean that each day is not an intricate thread in His story. and i pray you would see it as such. realizing that the miraculous could very well be taking place in your life this day. through your life. whether you see it or not.
what I am doing
it was during the drive home from portland, a long, but relaxing drive. one that provided much opportunity for reflection on my story, and how it is a part of His story, that i felt His words pressing upon me once again. reminding me that He is at work. reminding me that the miraculous is occurring. and encouraging me to see it.
this is what I am doing…. this is what I am doing… this is what I am doing.
and i was so encouraged. because i knew, at that moment, that He is at work. even when i don’t see it. and that i need only look in the rear-view mirror to see what He has done. and to remind myself that He will continue to do great things in the future. to tell His story.
i cannot tell you how blessed i feel for the life i have. truly. i feel i am now at a point in my life where i can look back and see how He knew the deepest longings of my soul, and how He slowly and carefully directed my paths in such a way that brought me to where i now find myself. at a place of firm footing. at a place where the longings of my soul are quenched.
active agents of His story
and looking back. seeing what He brought me from. knowing as painful as it was at times, i can now see the greater pain He saved me from. and i can see that He fully intends to use this story for His glory. i see that is why He has me where He does. not so that I can simply be thankful i am not where my childhood seemed to be pointing me. in a life filled with poverty. a life filled with painful relationship after painful relationship. in a life filled with alcohol abuse. or worse. in a life that lacked a deep, intimate relationship with Him. no, i don’t think He has saved me from that life so i can simply sit back and enjoy His blessings, but i think He has me where i am so that i can share His story with others. and so that His story may change their lives, as it has mine.
that is simply how He works. from one life to the next. we are all active agents of His story. and were i to hold onto the security He has blessed me with, that story would not go out in the way it could. instead, as we step out in faith, He is creating opportunities to share His story, to share Himself, with others. in incredible ways. in ways we cannot now see. but, in faith, they already bring me great excitement. for i know He does great things with even tiny amounts of faith. that is simply how He works. and it is beautiful.
His story will be told. His story is being told. and i pray you would see it. all around you. stirring within you. stirring within those around you. it is a good story. it is a great story. and it will be told through us.