Two years ago, on my 30th birthday, I told Robert that I wanted to write a book before I turned 40. He smiled, skeptical and encouragingly, and asked what kind of book I planned to write. I didn’t have a solid answer. I thought a cookbook would be fun, maybe even a Bible study or a children’s book. I knew that I enjoyed writing and I especially enjoyed reading. Writing a book seemed like the perfect, unrealistic and somewhat silly “goal” I wanted for the next decade of life.
I do genuinely love to read, mostly because I love stories. Several years ago, I started making a goal of how many books I would read each year. The goal has grown and evolved, mostly it has blessed me. Reading books and stories out loud to our children is one of my favorite activities. To be sure, I grow tired of reading Elmo’s ABCs over and over again, yet I still love the opportunity to read to my children. I cherish this past time even more now that I have one less child to climb into my lap for a story. We read board books, we read picture books, we read biographies and we especially love reading The Chronicle’s of Narnia. Stories are special.
For the past few days I have been wrestling with the reality of our own personal story. This is not the story I wanted to write. This is certainly not the story I wanted to live. I have had many precious souls encourage me to continue writing. Many people have let me know that something I have written has touched them personally, encouraged them or something else along those lines. I’m grateful for that, but I’m living a story and writing about a story that I did not ask for and I did not want.
This is not the story I wanted to write. This is certainly not the story I wanted to live.
What do we do with the story we didn’t want, but is ours any way? I’ve thought about this a lot in the last couple of days. While some assumed that the first few days and weeks after Jane’s death would feel surreal to us, I never found that to be the case. Everything has been terribly real. In fact, our reality has been glaring for 115 days now. “Surreal” has yet to play a part in our story, but as time marches forward our vision is a little less foggy. I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of sorrow and loss. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I constantly battle discontentment, anger and bitterness. I find myself thinking about how much I hate our current story.
Yesterday, a friend sent me a message to let me know she was praying and to ask how we were doing today. Again, I can’t say enough how much a I appreciate the parameter of time attributed to the question of how we are doing. It is much easier to be honest and clear with my response when time is framed definitively. I responded, “We’re doing ok. Not good, not bad. Content in the Lord, longing for heaven. Missing Jane and waiting for Lucy. Complex and simple, all at the same time.” It’s a strange story.
Our present life and circumstances are not surreal. They are complex and simple, all at the same time. What my life looked like exactly one year ago seems so foreign to me now. We have been given a story that we didn’t ask for and yet we are living it, for better or worse. I dare to assume that most people are living a life they didn’t anticipate. Perhaps it is exponentially sweeter than you hoped or perhaps you have experienced disappointment, heartache, loss or waiting without an answer.
Sharing our story publicly has opened my eyes to many people’s stories. People send us letters, emails, stop me in the grocery store or just around town. People are willing to share their stories with us, I believe in part because we have been willing to share our own story. Most of the stories I hear are stories of heartache and uncertainty. I hear about others who have loss children or spouses. I hear stories of adoptions fallen through, wombs empty, broken marriages and lost dreams. It’s heavy, but I feel honored that these people trust me with their story.
Knowing my own story and now hearing the stories of others, I grow more perplexed at how often we think we are in control of our own story. How could we possibly think that we alone are writing our narrative? This morning I was reading in Isaiah and I was reminded of the truth that God is writing our story. Isaiah 45:9 says, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands?'”
I am the clay, how can I complain to the potter about what He is making? How can I, the written story, complain to the author? Instead of complain, I must comply. Lament is Biblical. Asking God questions and telling Him that I don’t understand my story is ok. But I cannot wallow in self pity because my story is not what I hoped it would be. If I know God and believe His Word to be true, then I know that He is the greatest author of all time. He writes masterpieces and they are full of redemption. Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
How can I, the written story, complain to the author? Instead of complain, I must comply.
Now that we are living a story we didn’t choose, what can I do to honor the author? In the gospels we read the story of a man possessed by demons. Jesus heals the man and the man begs to go with Jesus. Luke 8:39 tells us Jesus’ response, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Believe me when I say that I would love nothing more than to be present with Jesus right now. However, for now, Jesus has given those of us on this earth a task. Go and tell how much God has done for you.
While our story is full of pain, heartache and loss, it is also full of mercy, grace, faithfulness and redemption. The fact is that Christ’s beauty is displayed all the more brightly in times of sorrow, suffering and the hard stories. It’s not always easy to come to terms with that each day, but I trust my God who is sovereign, holy and good. He is the perfect author, and I dare not doubt His capabilities to finish a story well. The unique quality of our author is that He is there from start to finish. He is the first and the last. (Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 22:13) He will never leave us or forsake us, even in the midst of the story (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
God is the perfect author, and I dare not doubt His capabilities to finish a story well.
Maybe you are living a story you did not choose, that is hard and heart wrenching. I know how that feels and I know how easy it is to get lost in the day to day narrative. When the story gets difficult, I have to look to the author. He knows our burdens and He knows our story. It may not be the story I wanted to tell. It is definitely not the story I wanted to live, but by the grace of God I will tell everyone how much Jesus has done for me. I will tell the story of my author.