do you remember David, from the Christmas confrontation in 2008? he was murdered last Wednesday, four houses down from where we were staying. i cannot put into words the many emotions we have gone through this week…anger at his choices that would make him vulnerable (drugs, mafia, stealing, all sorts of crime), sadness and compassion for his two children and wife left behind, heaviness for the reality of this small town, lost in a growing number of sins and depravity, restless for the lack of hope or alternative, gratefulness that the Lord pulled my husband out of there 3 years ago (David used to be best buddies with Moises), and just weariness. a touch of what I imagine the Word talks about when it says the earth groans in waiting.
It’s gotten me thinking and churning and there have been some things I'm reading that relate. Donald Miller talks about it like this… “I said his daughter was living a terrible story…I don’t know exactly, but she’s just not living a very good story. She’s caught up in a bad one…A couple months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. ‘She’s better,’ he said to me, smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story.” (excerpted p 50, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). La Batea, and many, many, MANY people are just living a bad story. And us Christians don’t offer a much better story.
WAIT. how is it possible that we, who have heard the BEST story ever, not be able to offer a better story? this creates a tension and pain that pricks in the stomach and swells to my head. it makes me take a long hard look at what i’m doing, if i’m just like them, but in a glossier-looking package. do all my activities and works and motives invite people into the Story or are they just pretty little vignettes for my own pleasure? if we’re honest, i think we will find that most of us are concerned about making a good story for ourselves, or as Donald Miller said, “My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams.” (p 77). we assume that the story is about us, just a tree in the forest, but we are reminded its actually a story about a forest (donald miller).
Amy Carmichael addresses this issue, specifically about comfort, in her book A Gold Cord.
“The Lord calls men with the spirit of Epaphroditus. That spirit will be required, for the life of uttermost service cannot be called comfortable. ‘Comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as guest, and then becomes host, and then master. Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires. Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron. Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning to the funeral’ (kahil gibran). It is true; but it is one thing to applaud it as truth and quite another to turn from that lust that murders the passion of the soul, for the sake of these for whom Christ died. But no one who has done so would exchange this way of living for any other.” (Amy Carmichael, p 367 A Gold Cord).
This passage cut me through, and I think it relates to what I was writing earlier, that if we focus our story on comfort, or security, or fun, or fame, or power, or whatever else it may be other than Jesus and His story and how our stories are all about the bigger story, we will fall into the same story that La Batea lives….an empty, bored church with souls chained up just outside the doors. we will be ineffective, useless and restless. maybe it won’t be so obvious, but we’ll know, because we will begin to see the mildew cracking through the whitewashing.
To take it a step further, Oswald Chambers speaks not of just a story that points to the larger Story, but of a giving that pours ourselves out. “ The real test of the saint is not preaching the gospel, but washing the disciples’ feet, that is, doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of men but count everything in the estimate of God. Paul delighted to spend himself out for God’s interests in other people, and he did not care what it cost. We come in with our economical notions –‘Suppose God wants me to go there – what about the salary? What about the climate? How shall I be looked after? A man must consider these things.’ All that is an indication that we are serving God with a reserve. Paul focuses on Jesus Christ’s idea of a New Testament saint in his life, viz. not one who proclaims the gospel merely, but one who becomes the broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of Jesus Christ for other lives.” (My Utmost for His Highest, February 25.)
Those of you who know the Word will have those verses echoing back to you, the place that all these ideas spring from. Jesus was very clear about the life, the Story that we are called to. There is a need, a DESPERATE NEED, for the children of God to remember what story it is that they are a part of and to fight hard to make their daily story resonate with the larger Story…because we are His ambassadors, His messengers, the ones who take the story to others and invite them in, reminding them that they too are characters in His story. and if my story doesn’t resonate with the Story, people get confused and misled. and they think the Story is about personal fame or power or success or comfort or easy living…and they get bored. and they get caught up and enslaved by the more deceiving and darker stories…where they can’t get out.
So I ask you…what kind of story are you writing? who is the main character of your story? what are the things that move your story along? and if you find that your story isn’t what you hoped for, I leave you with two other story ideas from Miller.
“The oldest book of the Bible is supposedly the book of Job. It is a book about suffering, and it reads as though God is saying to the world, Before we get started, there’s this one thing I have to tell you. Things are going to get bad…God doesn’t explain pain philosophically or even lists its benefits. God says to Job, Job, I know what I am doing, and this whole thing isn’t about you.” p 197
“I don’t ever want to go back to believing life is meaningless. I know there are some biochemical causes for some forms of depression, but I wish people who struggle against dark thoughts would risk their hopes on living a good story – by that I mean finding a team of people doing hard work for a noble cause, and joining them. I think they’d be surprised at how soon their sad thoughts would dissipate, if for no other reason that they didn’t have time to think them anymore. There would too much work to do, too many scenes to write. “ (p 247)
PS. Thanks, Donald Miller, for being honest enough to put all that into writing. For encouraging us to “edit” our lives and start making a meaningful story. You provided a more elegant version of something I’ve been thinking about for awhile.