When I started this conversation, I really didn’t know what I was going to talk about. Oh, I wanted this month to be 31 days of community so I could preach one of my passions. But, we are in a bit of a communal slump right now in our personal lives so it felt a bit hypocritical to go to town on that when we haven’t been living it ourselves lately. However much we may want to be, we just aren’t. Plus I really didn’t think I could keep it up for that long without going really deep and scaring you all off permanently. (Delicate balance between writing your heart and keeping the “fans” happy – and remember I’m told that I am too much. A lot.)
All that to say, I was somewhat surprised by how much I wrote about the farm, because that was not my initial plan. But then again, I’m not surprised at all, because God knew that I needed to write that story so that I might have the courage to actually live it. You see, when this month started I was still deep in the clutches of doubt and desperately searching for a way out. A different piece of land, a house on a acreage in Catoosa so we could live near the Shaffer family because they seemed like they might be our friends someday given enough time and opportunity.
“Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years).
But with each telling came another dose of certainty. Until the cancer of doubt has been defeated. For now. Because, in reality, she sleeps just under the surface of my skin. Remission. Which means, dear reader, there may very well be a relapse. And then what?
Then you. And the power of story, yet again. His story and how it collides with mine both in the pages of The Book and on the pages of my heart. So, when doubt shouts (and it will) I’m going to need you to whisper faith to me. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Remind me of the stories of our faith and what they teach us about who we are in Christ and, more importantly, about who He is. Remind me of the miracles of our spiritual ancestors. And yours and mine.
“And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt” (13:16).
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).
Remind me of the hawk. Remind me of babies born of another woman and my own uncooperative womb. Remind me of surviving the pit of hell before those babies came. Remind me of losing the bid yet buying the farm. Remind me of salvation, and really, how could I ask for more?
But, you know, in order for you to remind me of something I must have told you about it first. Which is why it is so vitally important that we are willing to share our stories with one another. Even the hard chapters. Heck, especially the hard chapters. Not just the ones that have finally ended well and gone to print. On our hearts. But also the ones where the ending is still in production and we are afraid we might not make it into the final script.
Please, please, please don’t suffer the revisions alone. Don’t cry for a summer anguishing over a potential move to Chicago without allowing someone to catch your tears in a bottle for safe keeping. Don’t feel your heart crack open agonizing over wounded children in your home without letting someone pick up the pieces and hold them tightly together until healing comes. Don’t feel God poking holes in your bubble of safety without giving someone permission to be your shield until you can find your armor for the battle. Don’t bleed yet another life away without permitting someone the honor of mopping up the mess, especially the one in your heart. Don’t bury a loved one without allowing someone to help carry the load of a lifetime of memories & a broken heart. Don’t walk the darkness of your winter without asking someone to share the warmth & light of their companionship.
How can I remind you of your place in the story if you refuse to share it with me? Sharing leads to strength and telling leads to triumph. Let our stories be bound together because courage & communion come when we are not walking these pages alone.
And I want to live a good story for His name sake. And I know that you do too.
“A story is based upon what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain” (Donald Miller).
Together the pain is more manageable, and we receive encouragement to embrace the unexpected plot twists with grace instead of bitterness.
Your story matters. To me. And to Him.
“I don’t wonder anymore what I’ll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city……..I’ll tell these things to God, and he’ll laugh, I think and he’ll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We’ll sit and remember my story together, and then he’ll stand and put his arms around me and say, “well done,” and that he liked my story. And my soul won’t be thirsty anymore. Finally he’ll turn and we’ll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there’d been nothing” (Donald Miller).
So for now, tell your story and live your story with every ounce of breath you have within you. And I will join you. Let’s ride off into the sunset together.
And our yesterdays and our years from now will be spent saying to one another, “Remember when……..and God showed up and showed off? Me too, friend, me too.”
What’s your story?