I think it's in our human nature to crave a good story. I think it's also in our human nature to desire to live a good story.
But what does that mean? What exactly makes a "good story?"
I like to get lost in a good book or watch a good movie because during that time you immerse yourself in another world. It's an escape, in a sense. A good story by my own definition makes me feel for the characters in it as if I were living it with them. There's laughter and there's conflict and there's emotion. Life happens in a good story.
I wonder if we live those kinds of stories. The kind that takes people to another place. A place they want to be... a story they want to experience for themselves.
Don Miller defines a good story in "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" as a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
What do we want? And what kinds of conflict do we have to overcome to get it?
It's funny how every good story in literature and in film usually has an element of love in it. Almost always, the conflict at hand is resolved in an act of love. It doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love, it could be a love between a parent and child, or just the love of a friendship. But it seems like most stories that we deem "good stories" or even "great stories" are in some form or fashion, a love story. We crave that as human beings... and I think we were designed that way for a reason.
So, if we know conflict will make our stories great, and if we know love will be not only something we crave but something we need along the way... then I think we're in a great place to begin our good story.
And I think up until this summer, I had those two things down for the most part. I've seen enough conflict, enough adversity in my life to understand first of all that it's inevitable, and second of all that the old saying is true... it does build our characters, shape us into a different person in the end than we were in the beginning, and probably make us a little stronger. And, again, in a good story we usually see that happen to characters. And there's been a love relationship along the way that's held my hand through it all — my relationship with Jesus. And on top of that, He's given me love relationships with other people that have showed me bits of HIS character... unconditional love and incredible wisdom of a great earthly Dad, the love of earnest prayer and constant encouragement from my Mom, the love of friends and sisters that have showed me grace over and over, and have taught me the power of community, and, most recently, he's given me a romantic love relationship with my best friend, who consistently leads and challenges me in my faith.
So by those two standards, overcoming conflict and being in love in every sense of the word, up until this last month or so I would say that this year, I've been living a great story. And I really do believe that I still am — but here's the kicker. The lesson God's been teaching me about my story this summer: my story isn't about me.
WHAT!? I was a little bit offended when He first told me this. MY story... isn't about ME? Come on, God. Are you sure? ... Turns out He is.
See, the world tells us that this life is about us. Especially in America. Do what YOU want. Life on YOUR terms. American dream. And you know, I don't think that's all bad. I know I tend to usually lean to the "radically liberal hippy" side of things, slamming the American Dream mentality. And I do have some strong opinions about how we don't love on the needy enough, and one day I do want to do a social experiment and just go live on the streets with some homeless friends and see how it feels. (Sorry if you're reading this, Mom... I know that just made you very nervous.) But I know there are people who make millions of dollars and give much of that away for the kingdom, so I know it's not all bad. But I do also believe that a majority of it is... because we're about living our own great stories. Everyone else is just an accessory to our story.
In the season of life I'm in right now, the world tells me that in less than a year I'm going to graduate college and I should pursue a career and chase a dream, and maybe along the way find a husband and have some babies and raise them to lather, rinse and repeat. So as all my friends and I approach our senior year, with our whole adult lives ahead of us, we're taught to be selfish. We're taught that from here on out we're on our own and it's all about us.
Whoa... time out. "We're on our own and it's all about us." That's what the world says. But what the WORD says is the opposite. We're not on our own, and it's certainly not about us. Right? Jesus said that several different times in several different ways.
So I've been wrestling with that lately, because I feel God calling me to a story and a purpose that I may have a role in, but it's certainly not all about me. It's so much bigger than me. And I want to be obedient to that, and I know there is patience involved in waiting on God to show me the who, what, when, where, why and how.
I've been frustrated at times this summer. I've been a little bit fearful and selfish, but in that He's teaching me that seeking His face is so much more important than seeking His answers.
So last week, I had to surrender my whole story to Him. And it hurt a little bit. But our stories aren't about us... they're about glorifying Him. So I told him something like this...
"Lord, I want to tell you today that though I've been selfish lately, I'm still on board. I know you're good, and I know whatever you have for me is going to be good. I'm going to stop searching for answers to all of my unknowns and just start searching for you. I know you'll provide all that I need. I know that you're a good father. I know that you love me. I know that you want to make my story great... and I know that the only way it will truly be great is if I step out of the spotlight and allow you to step in."
... and nothing spectacular has happened yet. But it will. Oh, friends... it will. And I can't wait to share it with you.