Stories are important. That truth is all around us. Stories fill the Bible as a way of teaching us all the best life lessons. Stories are how Jesus chose to teach people. Stories are what draw us into friendships and knit peoples hearts together. Stories teach us. Stories inspire us. Stories elevate us. Each one of us has a profound and powerful story, chock-full of meaning that can point to God’s mysterious and unpredictable loving care for us.
Your story is important.
Your life story is one facet of the most multi-faceted jewel ever, where each person reflects a different aspect of God’s love and character. We are all made in His image. These facets all come together into one bedazzling gem that points to God himself.
I have a story too. Living out my story is my act of worship. I remind myself of that as often as I can. I need to. I need to remember that my story is intentionally designed and not random. I need to remember that my story is crafted by the lover of my soul.
My story title became “Bad Stuff That’s Happened to Me.” It was really more of a list than a story, and as I lived it out, the list got longer and longer and felt impossibly heavy at times. I thought to myself: I would know I had healed from my hurts when my story and its title weren’t on the forefront of my mind. I’d be “all better” when the story line was fixed.
While my first 26 years of life made me think that I had a certain control over my life, my next 20 would be the opposite. The craziness and sorrow began with the death of my closest friend, my sister, in a freak single car rollover car accident on a sunny summer day. My whole foundation was shaken in a single phone call. Grief settled upon me in such a way that made me think it would never leave.
Then infertility knocked on our door. The biggest dream of my life became elusive.
The longer I felt completely out of control, the more it weighed me down and the more I questioned who God really was. It was easy to love Him and give myself to His will when His will and my will looked the same. I think I cried every single day. I was ripped apart. I had lost my dear sister and now I was losing my dream of having children to love and be loved by.
As the months passed, we finally came to the decision to adopt children. Eleven times we were paired with a birthmom and her baby; nine of those pairings ended in gut wrenching sorrow as the birthmoms changed their minds. Two birthmoms gave us the gift of our two oldest children.
My list of “Bad Stuff” grew with diagnosis of our oldest: extreme and complex mental illness. Years of dealing with dozens of professionals left us reeling. Prayers and pleas for God’s healing were left unanswered and left us with deep questions and scars.
The list continued to grow when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 32. Then a twin pregnancy with the help of fertility doctors, that ended with premature birth at 7 months, a full 2 months early. We didn’t know if Sally and Ella would make it through.
Then came the diagnosis of epilepsy for our youngest after several grand mal seizures that looked as close to dying as I’d ever want to imagine.
Then another blow; I knew it was something big when in the ER at the Children’s Hospital the nurse told me and my oldest daughter to follow her to another room. When I asked the nurse why, she told me the doctor would need to explain it. “Oh,” I said aloud, “our lives are about to change, that’s why.”
Diagnosis: brain cancer. Then an 8 hour brain surgery the next morning, followed by a 6 month hospital stay punctuated by one life threatening complication after another.
When my story seems too full of uncertainty and I am tempted to be fearful, I remind myself that my story here on earth is a blink of an eye. It’s short lived. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unimportant. It is super important! The author of it is God himself. It’s just that it’s short by comparison to eternity where all things will be made right and every single aspect will be steeped in the fullness of His love.
So I remind myself of the answer Jesus gave when asked what is the most important thing: he said it’s to love God and love people. Every single act of love, whatever it may be, however noticed or unnoticed it might be, however big or small, will be what carries on for all eternity. Yup, my story is a blink of an eye. But it’s my most important blink. It matters.
That old title to my story... “Bad Stuff That’s Happened to Me”? It never did go away. I came to realize it would never go away. It is too valuable to be erased. Along the way I learned that the most important thing -- loving God and loving people -- can be my choice in any of life’s circumstances. Something had changed. The story was the same but a new title was emerging. The new title, the God given title, was: “The Best Stuff That has Happened to Me”. The book of James would have titled my list “Pure Joy”.
We are all facing trials in these uncertain days. The details of your specific story matter immensely. The title you give your story also matters immensely ... “consider it pure joy...”
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials
of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you
may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.