Yesterday, I shared a story about meeting God in the grocery store during an incredibly difficult time in my life. It was a very personal story, and I mentioned I would follow up today to explain why I shared it.
I guess I should start by telling you about my fondness for bookmarks.
I really appreciate a good bookmark. I’m serious. And it seems like there’s never enough of them. A few months ago, after spending an amount of time I won’t admit searching for the perfect bookmark and not finding it, I wondered if I might be able to make one.
So I went to Pinterest and found a tutorial that looked quick and easy enough. (I’ll admit though, I was wary. Generally, the quicker and easier something looks on Pinterest, the more likely I am to lose a thumb and twelve hours of my life while attempting it.) But much to my pleasant surprise, this project turned out to be just as quick and easy as it seemed. Better still, it used scrap materials that would’ve otherwise gone to waste. Double win!
So, you know, I made about 40 bookmarks – no exaggeration – because like I said, I’m a little too enthusiastic about bookmarks. (I used to be cool.)
I gave the homemade bookmarks out as little gifts and tucked them into books all over my house. And now I’m pretty much swimming in bookmarks. I see them all over the place, so I’ve thought about them a lot. And here’s where I’ve determined my love of bookmarks stems from: I love being in the middle of a story. Generally, I find things start to get good there. That’s where I become most invested in how things are going to turn out. It’s where I start to sense that everything is going to come together, even if I can’t quite be sure how it will happen. There’s a lot of hope and drama and excitement there, in the middle of a story. It pulls me in.
Lately, I’ve started to look at all these bookmarks around me as a tangible reminder that I am somewhere in the middle of God’s big story. And within that big story are countless smaller stories (my own included), weaving into one another with incredible intricacy.
Of course – and this is the hard part – I’m not the one writing the story. I’d like to think I am, and sometimes I trick myself into believing I am for a little bit, but the truth is I have very little control over the plot. I can make my own choices, yes, but I don’t always know what’s coming next. Sometimes what’s coming next in the story is just what I’ve been hoping for, and other times it’s something altogether different.
The Creator of the Universe is the author, and He does know what’s coming next. While He doesn’t need us to finish writing the story, He does invite us to join Him in being a part of it. But He won’t force us to. We have a choice to make. So in a way, I guess you could say each of the little stories we’re in is a “choose your own adventure” story.
The wonderful thing about God’s story is that it’s a comeback story – a story of redemption. Every follower of Jesus has chosen to be in a redemption story. Not because they deserved to be redeemed, but because they knew they didn’t deserve it. They knew they needed a Savior. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24 ESV)
It’s an indescribably amazing thing to make the choice to enter God’s story of redemption through Jesus. It’s life-changing. Eternity-changing.
And I wonder if people are missing out on joining us in the big story because we’re too comfortable in it.
Do you know what I mean? We go to church and sing our worship songs and drink coffee in the lobby and it’s easy to just bask in the big story and forget about our smaller stories, especially the hard parts of those smaller stories. Because we’re in the big story now. We’ve closed that little book. We’re redeemed.
But… what does that look like to people outside of the big story? I wonder if people outside the story look in and see a bunch of people who have it all together. Or a bunch of people who pretend they’re all together when they so clearly aren’t. I wonder if they look in on us there and think, I have real problems, so I guess I don’t belong in that story.
Because the truth is we’re all messy and broken people. We all know it. That’s what brought us to Jesus in the first place. We aren’t doing anyone any favors by hiding our struggles with sin, heartache, or the times when we’ve wrestled with and questioned God. And I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we need to talk about that more. I’m convinced we need to become more comfortable with telling the hard parts of our stories. The ugly parts. The painful parts. The parts we’ve been redeemed from. We need to be willing to expose our weaknesses more, because that’s precisely where God’s strength can be seen.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
Of course, it’s not always appropriate to share every detail of our stories with everyone on the planet. I’m not suggesting we do. But I am suggesting we each take a look at our own small story, find the places where Jesus showed up in the midst of our struggles/suffering/sin, and bookmark those places. Because perhaps those are the parts of the story we need to be willing to open up and retell from time to time. Perhaps people on the outside of the big story will see a glimpse of themselves there and think, Maybe there’s a place for me in that story after all.
Perhaps we all need to be a lot more willing to say something like this:
Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 The Message)
Next week, I’ll be guest writing at (In)Courage, sharing a little more about this topic. Until then, I’m going to leave you with one more excerpt from the Jesus Storybook Bible to finish out this week. (And if you need any bookmarks, you know where to find me.)
The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves…. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together; and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.