It’s the thrill of the story, the terror of suspense, the hope of resolution that often keeps me going. Whether we’re talking about turning pages in a book or the story of life, the reality is often the same– the story, the suspense, and the hope of resolution keep me pressing on.
While reading a novel, it’s the author that writes the story. When opening our eyes to a new day, it’s our job to create the story. And living the story means we must first see the story. Some days I’m very tempted to give up. Honestly, I’ve decided to give up multiple times, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. If I stayed in bed, life would keep going anyway and I’d have other problems to deal with. If I quit doing the things that I didn’t want to do, they would come back to haunt me.
Several years ago I was alone with our two sons in a guesthouse in Manila. Garry was gone overnight with a young friend who was visiting. My older son was busy training for badminton and I was trying to do school with my youngest. The room we were in was nice, but it was distracting trying to study in the midst of all our things. Downstairs there was space, but there were often other people sharing the space, and it was hot. Besides school I was trying to unravel business financial issues and make plans to return to Canada. It wasn’t the most fun.
Except it was part of a bigger story. Those days we were helping with relief work after a typhoon had ravaged huge parts of the Philippines. Garry’s trip was to facilitate the delivery of seaweed to a devastated island, hopefully restoring the livelihood of the area. So the inconveniences were just that– inconveniences. Disconnected from the story, though, the situation would have been overwhelming.
In the everydayness of living, the thrill and hope often get buried beneath the terror. The story gets lost in today, the things to do and the places to go become the focus. So often it is a matter of perspective, and when I lose it I just have to go back to where I started– with the story.
To keep good perspective, I have to constantly remember that I’m going somewhere, and what I hope the climax of the story will be. I often remember Donald Miller’s note at the beginning of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, where he talks about how we often live our lives for an outcome that wouldn’t even satisfy our longing for a happy ending to a movie. And when we start doing that, we are missing our chance for something so much better.
Sometimes, “I just needed to say it!” Garry teases me that I have no clue what I actually think until I say it: it might be true. The effort it takes to put my thoughts into words often clarifies what I am thinking. Talking life through with someone who gives feedback is even more helpful: their response to my story either reinforces where I am trying to go or changes where I am going to somewhere I’d rather end up.
Sometimes talking isn’t enough, then it helps me to literally write the story so I can remember it. What am I trying to accomplish today, this week, this year, this decade? What is the hoped-for outcome that is worth today’s energy? Taking the time to actually write a page or two in a journal often unravels the pressures I feel into categories of worthwhile or a waste of time.
In the end, my story is but a small part of the story of my family and my community. It’s an even smaller part of the story of the world, but it is part of that bigger story, the story that God is writing. This bigger perspective helps me not take myself too seriously and keeps me involved in life outside my head. It reminds me that today and the ability to write the next part of my story is an incredible privilege.
Sometimes, the reality is that I forget I am living a story, and that is the biggest loss of all. What’s your story that is pushing you forward, pulling you onward?