"What will the world miss if you do not tell your story?"
I went to the Storyline Conference in Chicago last weekend. My dearest friend in Des Moines told me she was going come hell or high water and I could join her if I wanted. It was very affordable (they offered a "pay what you want" price.) and I had transportation and lodging provided so uh, yeah. No-brainer. (And I also have a husband who travels a lot for work removing any guilt associated with leaving him alone with the kids for a weekend.)
I didn't really know what I was in for. The web site was kind of vague-ish. The lineup of speakers was incredible, though, so I had pretty high hopes that I was in for an inspiring weekend.
Donald Miller (of Blue Like Jazz fame) led three of the main sessions. I've only read half of one of his books but I now want to read ALL of all of them. I was laughing through all of his talks,(LOUDLY. Why do I always feel like I'm the loudest laugher in my section?? This is a warning if you ever come to a comedy show with me. I will laugh embarrassingly loud through the whole thing.) while voraciously taking in everything he was saying. I'm not usually a note-taker but I couldn't write fast enough.
He talked a lot about taking ownership of our story, not to just react to things happening to us but to be co-creators of a meaningful life. And most importantly, not to fear conflict but be willing to engage it. There were so many great tidbits, I'll try to narrow it down to a few:
- When someone doesn't feel like they have meaning, they numb themselves with pleasure. (I think this is especially true for teenagers but obviously carries through into adulthood.)
- What do I want? If somoene asked those closest to me and they couldn't answer, we're not living a strong story.
- Narrative is the most powerful tool to compel a human being and change someone's world view. (I love this one. It's why churches use testimonies so often. It's one thing to hear the gospel. It's another thing entirely to hear how the gospel has changed someone's life.)
- What if your kids learned from your story what was worth living and sacrificing for?
- Forgiveness is accepting the burden somebody has given you while no longer holding it against them.
- The Christian life has become so easy and comfortable and non-revolutionary--far different than any story in the Bible. The Christian life is an invitation into a very difficult story. (Phew. That one is so convicting to me.)
We also heard powerful talks from Glennon Melton-Doyle, Shauna Niequist, Scott Hamilton, Michael Hyatt and Bob Goff, along with four spoken word pieces by Propaganda. (Can we talk about Bob Goff for a minute? I don't have words to describe what it's like to listen to him. You don't just sit and listen to him. You experience him. I could have sat there for eight more hours to listen to his stories. The man has a gift and it's changing the world.) I just sat there, like a dry sponge, soaking it all in. I loved God's timing of this conference in my life. I heard another person say, "That conference was for me. Everyone else just showed up." I felt the exact same way. Turns out, there are a lot of people out there on the cusp of living out great stories. I wished I could have connected with each one just to find out what story they were co-authoring with God.
That's the thing we, as believers, need to let wash over us and then let sink in. God knows every detail of our story. But He didn't write it for us. I do believe He is completely sovereign and directs people's paths with gentle nudges (or sometimes a swift kick in the butt) but He is absolutely not a puppeteer. He placed that pen in each of our hands. He sends us off with great responsibility on our shoulders to live lives worthy of our namesake as His children. Thankfully He's there with us every step of the way. Sometimes we get it right, often times we get it wrong, but His safety net of grace is always big enough to catch us when we trip and fall, no matter how hard or far. And the beauty of walking in step with our co-author is that when we take those bruises and bloodied knees from a fall to Him in prayer, He uses them to shape our character to become more like Christ every time.
Bob Goff used an example of hiking up a mountain behind a guide. "If you have a guide you can trust, you don't have to worry about the path you're on."
Principles of decision making by Garry Friesen. The Way of Wisdom:
1. Where God commands, we must obey.
2. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
3. Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.
I admit, I've let my current trial--a husband who doesn't want to be married to me anymore because of the pain I inflicted on him a handful of years ago through emotional infidelity--weigh me down. Over the last couple of months I've felt so defeated by depression and loneliness and sheer exhaustion that single-parenting three boys brings. I'm "doing" all the right things, so God should turn this ship around and restore our marriage, right? Gosh, I wish I could claim that part as a promise but it's not. Do I have hope that He can? Absolutely. Until the bitter end. But I CANNOT assume that's what God is saying when He says things are going to work together for good.
If you're walking through your own personal desert, read Hebrews 11 and 12. Let's get our expectations straight. Chapter 11 talks about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah.
Verse 13 (from The Message):
"Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that--heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them."
I want to type out all of Chapter 12 here but I won't. Just go read it. (Read it in The Message version if you haven't before.)
This is the kind of hope I want rising deep from within my soul. Not a hope in my marriage or my own happiness here on earth but a hope that comes from knowing that one day I'll be in the presence of God for eternity and I want Him to be proud of me. I want to speak boldly what He's done in my heart. And I really want to love others well along the way.
Donald Miller said, "God is so much more concerned about our character than our comfort." I don't want to squirm and writhe through the uncomfortable times. I want to lean into it. I want a huge perspective shift to happen down to my core, where I wake up in the morning and ask God, like Don said, "where is my pain bringing me today?" I think it's possible. I'm not there yet. I probably have a long way to go. But I don't doubt for a second that He can and will use my story in some small way.
"I've learned to live my scars out loud because those are the fingerprints of the Lord."
(For more posts about my desert season, click on the "broken made beautiful" label below. If you're on a smart phone, you'll have to go to the full web version in order to do this.)