It’s kind of peculiar, but does it sometimes seem to you as if starting something new simultaneously prods the old to come out and play? And when it comes to play, well, it doesn’t play very nice?
Over the past month and a half, I’ve moved to a new city, landed into my new job and have had to face the introvert’s ultimate challenge – having to build a brand new social network basically from the ground up. It’s all been simultaneously new, fresh, exciting, overwhelming, daunting and riddled with questions that won’t be quelled. Questions like: “How are things going to look when they get really busy?” “How are my relationships going to be?” “What will my favorite haunts be in this city? “What will my life look like this time next year?” My brain has literally been consumed with navigating the present while questioning the future.
But somehow, as if that hasn’t been enough to occupy me, the past has seen fit to poke its little head in, too. Whether through those ‘getting to know you’ conversations where I’ve felt like I’ve exposed my left lung to a stranger, or those questions I’ve asked myself about the future that taste a little bit like fear or smell faintly like caution, the past has tried to wiggle its way into the limelight.
Frankly, I had every intention of ignoring the little beast until two days ago when I simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. It was an innocent day – I minding my own business – when, while reading a book called “Prophetic Wisdom,” by Graham Cooke, I encountered a sentence that sent my soul to a screeching halt….
“I love my story in God,” Cooke gushed.
I think my stomach dropped to the floor with a resounding boom – sending the mountain I am currently living on shuttering to its roots.
Frantically, my little brain cells went a’runnin, scrambling for purchase. Could I write the same thing? Could I even say the same thing to myself, much less to God or anyone else? Immediately my heart turned towards Him, because I knew the answer, and there was no way I was getting out of this one.
“God, I’m so sorry, but I can’t say I love my story. I don’t. I don’t even like it much of the time. I love you. And I love myself (most of the time). And I love the people in my story. But my actual story? Hmm….really not the one I would have chosen….”
You see, while I, like most of us on this planet, am keenly aware that my story falls somewhere in the underwhelming middle category when it comes to interesting life stories — many having much “worse” stories to tell, and so many others have much “better” stories to share (you know, the kind that seem to trail sparkle poop behind them like Flora, Fauna and Merryweather’s leaking wands) — the problem isn’t so much with my story itself (as crazy as it’s been), but more in the way I have perceived myself in my story.
I guess you could say I just wasn’t the hero I wanted to be. Life took the unexpected twists and turns that it does, way outside the scope of my dreams, and through it all, well, I was human. I’ve made a ton of mistakes. I’ve also done a ton of things right. Mostly I’ve just grown up. A LOT. But, since no one else is as aware of our own messes as we are, well, many of us chronic self-reflectors are left to grapple with the fact that we and our stories just haven’t met our own ideal.
But therein lies the problem, I discovered that day – with our oft-times penchant for falsely interpreting our past – and the hope for seeing things differently. Because, well, we were never meant to be the hero of our own story. We’re flesh-boxes after-all, who try as we might, really really need someone to rescue US. That’s where God comes in. He helps us get beyond our very worst. He doesn’t make excuses for us, but He certainly forgives us. He cleans us up. Teaches us. Encourages us. Believes in us. Sees the best in us. Loves us. Makes us strong. Makes us beautiful. And HE, not we, is revealed to be the true Hero in our stories.
My story, with me at the center, looks a lot like an average messy camper just scraping by with an extra dose of DRAMA added in. But my story interwoven with God’s grace and kindness and leading? Now there’s a gorgeous story in the making. THAT story is pretty amazing.
So really, at the end of the day, it’s all about how we perceive our past. And to whom we go to interpret our past.
That day, after I realized I was perceiving things all wrong, I went one step further. I asked my Father in Heaven to show me how He sees me in my past – in my story. And what He showed me, – man, it was way Way WAY better than I could have imagined. In realizing that He has always been the true hero of my story, HE took the reins and made me look like a hero, too.
If you ever struggle with moments where that little monster called your past seems to want to come and take a big ol’ nip out of you, ask yourself this: who’s eyes are you seeing through when you look at your past? Trust me – you’ll do yourself a favor if you look through your Daddy’s eyes. Because when we do that, together we can say, along with Graham Cooke and Paul and David and every other person in the Bible:
“I love my story in Him. In the hardest chapters I have seen beauty and extreme loving-kindness. I have been to hell and prospered because He held my hand. I have lost everything and thrived….In the depths of humiliation and embarrassment, crushed by my own inadequacy and stupidity, He mined grace for me at a depth I hardly knew existed. Grace purified me … leaving me awestruck with gratitude.”