A Bigger Narrative

Have you ever picked up a book and started reading in the middle of any random chapter?

After falling behind in high school English class, I was forced to pick up in the middle of a book so that I could understand just enough for the upcoming quiz.

In hindsight, I can now see why I didn’t end up doing very well on that quiz.

I tried to understand a very large narrative within the span of just a few chapters.

In my attempt to do well on this quiz, I tried to grasp the essence of a story that the author intended to be understood over the course of several chapters read in order from beginning to end.

One chapter does not capture the essence of an entire narrative.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

In the same way, one chapter of our lives does not capture the essence of God’s bigger narrative, not only for our lives, but in all of creation.

God’s narrative goes so far above and beyond anything that we can comprehend, yet we so often try to squeeze it into just a few short chapters of our lives; attempting to understand everything through a very narrow perspective.

Just like an author, God has a storyline intended to be read entirely – in order from beginning to end. However, in our efforts to control our own existence, we tend to select a chapter of our lives and build it up to be our entire narrative.

This can be both good chapters and bad chapters.

Some people chalk up the essence of their being to what good they have done. The value of life is often summed up by professional success, relationships, reputation, social position, accumulation of things and experiences, etc.

In the eyes of the world, a lot of these things are good! We often look to those Instagram-worthy lifestyles and determine that their lives as a whole – their entire narrative – is one of success and achievement.

On the other hand, we also find that some lives succumb to the negative chapters.

Tragedy brings a progressive life to a screeching halt.

A mistake snuffs out any ambition for success.

A run of bad luck eliminates all hope.

This happens all the time as we take a small chapter of our lives and because it is all we can see or grasp with our finite minds, we believe that it is the essence of our story – failure, mistakes, and disappointment.

I’ve dealt with this many times as I often fault to the latter.

The whole concept of relationships and friendship is one saturated with disappointment and heartache for me. Many previous chapters of my life have had a lot of disappointment in this area and if I’m not careful, my heart will start to believe that this is the essence of my story – disappointment.

This is a dangerous cycle to get into, yet one that we are so easily susceptible to.

Yet, we have this hope.

We have this hope that there is a bigger narrative out there.

Not only is there more to the story, but the Author is inherently good.

I think all too often we lose the essence of that word – good.

Think about it – God is good. He is always good. He was good, He is good, and He will forever be good.

How comforting is it to know that the God who has already written our narrative is a good God? Our fear of losing control causes us to forget that He is good though, and therefore our trust in Him is crippled.

To the degree that fears have a place in our lives, we neither believe that God is good nor know deep in our hearts that He loves us.  –William P. Young

When the fears take over, we latch onto the only things that we can see and feel, and often that’s the life chapter we are currently in.

For some it’s a good chapter and pride builds up in the heart.

For others it’s a bad chapter and future chapters suddenly turn bleak and hopeless.

However, in the midst of fear and uncertainty, if we could remember that there is a bigger narrative – a greater purpose – rather than holding onto the only things our limited minds can grasp, we will instead hold onto the unchanging promises of our good Author.

We will remember that in all things, He is good.

And with that hope, we will trek through the chapters knowing them for what they truly are – single chapters in a very large scheme.

Whatever chapter you are in right now – good or bad – remember that it is only a chapter. There is a lot of book left my friend.

There is a bigger narrative and the God of all goodness holds the pen.

This We Know

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

How often do we say this and actually believe it, or act on it for that matter?

We like to think that our hearts are content in all circumstances, but when push comes to shove, we find ourselves striving harder and harder towards fantasies of satisfaction.

Why is this?

Why is being content so hard?

Why does even the mention of that word cause a collective sigh of frustration?

I remember in late High School or early college working my regular night shift at Perkins Bakery. I was in the back baking up some pies while listening to the radio like usual when the song Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave came on.

I had heard this tune before so I didn’t really pay much attention to it until the lyrics began to pull me out of my distracted thoughts.

 

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise, oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

 

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

It hit me. It was more than just head knowledge this time, it was a true, deep-rooted belief in my heart – I. Am. Content.

I was content right then and there, in the Perkins Bakery covered with flour. I was content and fulfilled with all that Jesus was in my life.

I was content with simply knowing Him and seeing a future with only Him in it.

Contentment is hard though. One minute it’s there and you’re happy with life – where you’re at, who you’re with, and where you’re headed.

Then out of nowhere something changes and suddenly what you were aiming for and patiently (or anxiously) waiting for is gone; replaced by something different and often times not what you were hoping for.

Contentment is pretty hard to maintain, but perhaps that’s because it is dependent upon things that are ever-changing.

In order to be content in all circumstances we need to find our contentment in the One who is consistent in all circumstances.

A couple of weeks after this ‘ah-ha’ moment, a friend of mine started dating this guy she had been talking to for a while. It was cute and all, but gosh – I wanted that too!

And wouldn’t you know it, my contentment somehow shifted from the all-sufficient God to an ‘ideal love story’ I was certain was just around the corner.

*insert exasperated sigh*

I told God that I was content in Him, but not in Him alone. Sure, I could be content with God for now, but eventually the thing that I really wanted would come and only then would I be fully, completely satisfied.

Jesus was enough…but only for now.

It wasn’t until about a week ago though that I realized my misinterpretation of what it means to be content.

Often when we ask God to make us content, we think in terms of what we want. We have this mirage of happiness – marriage, children, white-picket-fence lifestyle, a career, or wealth – whatever it may be, we have it dangling in front of us as we run around in circles trying to attain this idea of happiness.

We say, “God, please make me content in waiting for this or for that. Make me content and patient to wait on You.”

But what are we really saying?

Our contentment is based on that idea – that ‘ideal, perfect life’ that we have pictured for our future, and yet we wonder why our sense of contentment falters in the face of change…

We are asking God to make us content on our terms, and according to Paul, that’s just not how it works my friend.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment is not found in waiting for what we hope will be.

Contentment comes when we find fulfillment in what we know to be true today; right here, right now. Today.

So we ask ourselves, “What am I absolutely certain of in this moment? What are the truths that I can hold onto right now?” Consider the following…

**This is an excerpt from my prayer journal on June 14, 2017 –

Help me to be content in the only things I know for sure:

  1. You are good;
  2. You are faithful;
  3. My purpose is to glorify Your Name;
  4. Today I am alive;
  5. Tomorrow I do not know.

This we know to be true.

Each of these statements are unchanging, never-ending, and ever-present in each moment of our lives.

These truths are consistent in all circumstances. You will never find yourself in a situation where any one of these is not true.

Therefore, if your faith and contentment is found and nurtured on these consistent truths, then believe it or not, you will have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

This we know, and it is in this that we find true contentment.

This Mountain in Front of Me

This mountain in front of me

A fear, a sorrow, an internal game

Ever growing in greatness and degree

Every day it’s all the same

 

I struggle, I climb, I slip, and I cry

Everything I do bringing me closer to reprise

The smile on my face is just a lie

This too will become my demise

 

I fight to find the prayer oh so deep

The truths of knowledge so far from the heart

My faith in Him I desire to keep

From the love of my Savior I do not wish to part

 

I pray, “God, can you please move this mountain?”

And frantically read of a mustard seed

The thoughts “if only…if only…” through my head they ran

Faith oh so small is all I would need

 

But the mountain is still there God

Why is it still there?

The questioning begins – “Do I not have faith?” “Am I a fraud?”

Either that or He is just not fair

 

“Don’t go there,” I say

Oh, but I can’t

Don’t believe those traps the dark one lay

Don’t trust the lies he is sure to plant

 

My God is more

He is more than the mess I’m in

My body may be poor

But Abundance flows from within

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

He is more than the devil’s scheme

I will put my trust in the life-giving Fountain

If only to see His glory gleam

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

His power knows no end

He knows the names of stars by the thousand

And I know my heart He will defend

 

To see the powerful glory of God Almighty

I will calm my heart and bid it still

This mountain is oh so tiny

In light of His perfect and glorious will

 

Be it mountain, valley, or ocean

In His loving hands my future I see

His glory is my soul’s devotion

Even with this mountain in front of me

When God Turns Your Period Into a Semicolon

Like most people, I would assume, I often look back on my teenage years with a cringe.

So. Many. Phases.

And weird ones to say the least.

I had that rap phase that we all go through (don’t try to deny it, we’ve all been there), the ‘way too many Silly Bandz’ phase, the tomboy phase, the ‘too much makeup’ phase, etc.

One of my favorites though was my beanie phase. I wore beanies all the time and while anyone who knows me now wouldn’t actually believe that, I did.

That phase was brought up recently by a good friend who mentioned that this was his first memory of me – wearing a beanie. This made me laugh as I rolled my eyes and tried to hide my embarrassment. Even though it’s funny, don’t we all sometimes wish those embarrassing phases (and any memory of them for that matter) would just stay tucked away in the past?

We place periods at the end of all those teenage phases and hope to God that we’ve heard the last of them but somehow they always seem to get brought back up.

On a more serious note, do you ever feel like that happens with the hurtful, pain-ridden, cringe-worthy times in your past? Perhaps that big ‘why?’ that resurfaces in your memories every now and then –

Why didn’t this happen?

Why did that happen?

Why couldn’t it have gone the way I wanted it to?

Perhaps those mistakes of the past and the slipups that we wish we could forget but somehow seem to reappear in our lives.

Maybe it’s that big ‘what if?’ in your life –

the ‘what if’ relationship that got away;

the ‘what if’ opportunity that you let slip through your fingers; or

the ‘what if’ word that you didn’t realize at the time would be the last word you would ever speak to that loved one who passed away too soon.

Why does the hurt always resurface?

We ended that sentence in our lives with a firm period in hopes that we would never have to deal with it again but have discovered that God removed the period and replaced it with a semicolon.

Now, for those of you who struggle with semicolons (even English nerds like myself do at times, so no worries), a semicolon is what leads into a ‘second thought’ of an already complete sentence.

A semicolon joins two clauses that could, on their own, stand as complete sentences in order to demonstrate the relationship between the two.

After spending several hours contemplating where I wanted this blog to go and praying that God would direct my search, I decided on the story of Moses.

His cringe-worthy past of having lived a life of ease and plenty while his people were tortured and enslaved under the very hand of the man he called father was a memory I’m sure Moses wanted to forget; to place a firm period at the end of and never hear of it again.

Why else would he flee to Midian (Exodus 2:15)? He wanted to get as far away from his life in Egypt as possible and forget any and every memory of it.

Yet we find in later chapters of Exodus that God had a different plan in mind.

He removed Moses’ period at the end of that sentence in his life and replaced it with a semicolon to demonstrate the relationship between the hurt of Moses’ past and the glorious future of a renewed and redeemed people.

Sure, each could have stood independently on their own as complete sentences. Moses could have lived the rest of his days with a hurtful past and a mediocre future and God certainly could have freed His people another way.

But praise God that He does not leave us to wallow in our own self-pity.

God continues on with our story.

He continued the good work He started in Moses when he was first set adrift in the Nile and completed it in the freeing of His people.

God used that which Moses wished to forget for His ultimate glory.

So think back with me to that ‘why?’ or that ‘what if?’ in your life. What is that one thing, or maybe multiple things, that makes you cringe and want to run as far away from as possible?

For me it’s the hurt and embarrassment of a bad relationship.

When it ended, I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from it as I could and never hear of it again. But several years later, I found that God had taken the period that I had so firmly placed at the end of that time in my life and replaced it with a semicolon.

I’ve been able to use that unique and painful experience to meet others right where they are at. Where I thought my situation was unique to only me, God showed me that when we struggle with something, we are never alone in that struggle because someone else is probably dealing with the same thing.

On top of that, when God lays it on our hearts to share those painful experiences, regardless of how much it hurts to relive those raw memories, it often means that someone needs to know that they are not alone; that someone else understands what they are going through.

I’ve seen God create a relationship between the pain I experienced three years ago and the healing of others who have or who are dealing with that same hurt right now.

I don’t know the ‘second thought’ God has in mind for your sentence. I don’t know what He plans to do after the semicolon, but I do know that God is good.

God grants us the opportunity for a second chance; a chance to turn a sentence that we may not like into something beautiful. A chance to see our pain play a part in the glory of His Name.

His semicolon is our redemption story.

God does not waste pain. He will use the ugly and redeem the past to make the future bright with hope. “Redemption doesn’t mean we won’t feel the pain, but it does mean that the pain will eventually have a purpose.”

He places semicolons where we have periods so that the hurt of our past is redeemed in the hope of our future, for what was intended for our harm, God intends for good…(Genesis 50:20).

 

 

*I must give credit where credit is due – thank you Brogan for the support and encouragement in my journey as an aspiring writer and also for sharing this great blog idea with me! This is one of my favorites by far!