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Friday, January 9, 2015

The Only Story That Counts

 I once heard Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin say it best: "A storyteller's worst nightmare is becoming the story themselves." Long before the ideas expressed on this blog were even a thought in my mind, I was a storyteller. I always have been. Primarily, I was an aspiring historical fiction novelist. I created interesting plots and characters and wove themes throughout the story as I wanted to. I wrote it the way I thought it should go. And I treated my own life-story the same way.
  Then, the life-story took a twist I wasn't expecting…several twists, actually. Twists that I didn't write into the story. Twists that I didn't want or ask for. The nightmare had begun, and I - the storyteller - was the story. I didn't want to believe that. I still wanted to be the author of my story. I wanted to be in control of the narrative. Over time, I would realize that my skills as an author could only take me so far. They got me as far as the bedside of my then-ill dad; they got me as far as the newspaper which told me my friend Michael had died in Iraq; they got me as far as the phone call when I found out my childhood friend had nearly died in a car accident…but those skills could take me no further. Someone else was writing the story, not me. Deep in my aching heart, I knew that "someone" was God but, for awhile, that hard truth made me resent Him all the more. I felt like the tables had been turned and, now that I was the story, I didn't know what to do. All I wanted was to fade into the background, to be left alone to spin the tale as I wanted to. To once again live my life through characters and to forget the reality of the life I was being asked to live out myself.
  It took quite awhile for me to realize that I had never really controlled the story at all…that I never would fully control the story and that I had to accept it the way it was or be left to live a miserable existence thereafter. January 9th, 2009 was the day I began my journey back toward God and a life of grace and blessing. I so clearly remember that afternoon, and I remember exactly where I was when I finally hit rock bottom and acknowledged for the first time that my life wasn't really mine to begin with and that I needed a Savior to help me out of the mess I had created. I wanted to live again. I remember praying from the depths of my despair and asking God to do what, at the time, seemed impossible: to make the broken me beautiful. Inspired by the example of another young person I had seen, I approached God and said, " I want to impact others like that. I want to have that same joy." Then I said the most daring statement I had ever made: "I don't know what it will take for me to get from where I am to a life like that individual has, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I am giving you every aspect of my life. Do with me as you wish." Perhaps at the time, I didn't fully realize just how daring that statement-prayer really was; however, I knew that I had reached a turning point. And, almost immediately, God began working a miracle in my young life. Within a mere few days of uttering those words, I started to see the evidence that He had heard my daring request and was willing to answer…even in ways I had yet to understand.
  The next year-and-a-half would be a discovery of sorts, of finding out what this new life-abundant was that God was leading me toward. I couldn't completely comprehend what He was doing, nor could I totally grasp what it was that He wanted from me. But unlike other times, this time I was willing to listen. My eyes and mind were open, and I was searching. He was leading, and I was slowly but surely beginning to follow. The Fall of 2011 was when it all came to a head, and I finally made my decision to surrender completely to the God who had been relentlessly pursuing me for several years. He had made it clear to me in the months leading up to that time that He was after my heart. The journey had just reached a crossroads, and the choice had been left with me: would I acknowledge Him as the Author of my life-story and be willing to accept and embrace my role in the narrative He had been writing for the previous twenty-three years? I chose to lay down my so-called "rights" as the author of my own story and have never regretted for one day that I did so. I realized that, while I did not initially like becoming the storyline, there was no other way that God could do the work He wanted to in my life without such things taking place.
  Six years later, on this January 9th, I look back and see that He has crafted the story in ways that I could not have even begun to imagine at the time. What seemed, in the moment, to be the worst days of my life were, in reality, the beginning of the best days. Light always overcomes darkness. Hope always emerges from the greatest tragedies. And that's what happened with me. When I let God redeem the story…even the chapters which were the most painful…the broken me really was turned into something beautiful.
So much good has resulted in spite of the despair I once carried with me everywhere. Deep in my heart, I know that this blog would not have a message, my writing would not have a purpose - my life as a whole would not be what it is today if the prayer that was uttered out of a hurting soul on January 9th had not been voiced. There would be no smile, no love of life, no passion to help people, if God had not been willing to answer. The story could've ended in hopelessness. But, instead, it is being added to - enhanced and expanded - by the creative and masterful hand of my Savior. His story is the only story that really counts. And when we learn to embrace His narrative for our lives, there is no limit to the miracles which He can produce in and through us. Because of Him, our "worst nightmare" can turn into glorious reality.