Thursday, February 27, 2014

Do You Have a Good Story?

What's your life story? Is it a tidy, neatly-packaged one? Has it been characterized by everyday ups and downs, everyday sins and redemptions--a little too much pride here, a little too much anger there?

Was it somewhat or wholly tragic? Was it downright ugly and shameful?

I don't like my growing-up story, but things could have been worse. They could have been tragic, instead of just sad. Compared to vulnerable girls in third-world countries and what they have to endure, I had a blessed life.

But I've always felt less than, when I compare myself to people with a good story. Jesus and His grace help me fight this feeling, but it never entirely goes away, except during times of deep, at-His-feet worship.

A good story is when Mom and Dad love each other and stay together, and there are no shameful secrets in the nuclear family.

A better story is when Mom and Dad love each other, are Christian and stay together, have no shameful secrets, and raise up a crop of good Christian kids.

The best story is when Mom and Dad love each other, are Christian and stay together, raise up a crop of good Christian kids, and altogether, the family makes an impact on the world for Jesus.

The bestest story ever is when a legacy is built that honors God and passes godliness to many generations, through intentional God-clinging practices.

Many of the people at my church have a good story; it's your typical middle-class church of 150-170 people, with one very rich couple in attendance. While I like most everyone, I often feel like I can only relate to about 3 families. These three families? We understand each other. We don't waddle in sorrow or keep our heads down. We don't count our curses, but our blessings. We aren't marked with a scarlet letter, so no one knows our stories. In fact, we only stumbled upon each other's story by chance, not design.

People with good stories don't know what to think about sorry-storied people. Should they pity us? Should they stay away from us? Should they act nonchalant, as though nothing shocks them? My impression is they don't know what to think or feel. They've never been through such territory, and it's easy to assume their own intelligence and level-headedness kept them straight. A default reaction might be to place blame somewhere as quickly as possible, or to look down upon the story and it characters.

Some people struggle with pride over their good story, and others struggle with shame over their sad one.

When the shame of an ugly story grips me, do you know what the Lord speaks into my soul?

You are my daughter and I love you. Cling to Me and I'll write a beautiful ending.

Jeremiah 32:27 I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Whatever your story, cling to Him. Let Him work through you to write the best ending imaginable.

Because every story needs editing...and the Editor never gives up on us.

If you're like me and you really want the legacy story?

Cling. Cling. Cling.

Notice I didn't say obey? Or serve? Or go to a third-world country and adopt 20 orphans (though that would be grand)?

No. Just cling to the Lord. Don't let go. Let him mold and shape and write.  Live this Psalm:

Psalm 96:2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.


Tesha Papik said...

I have to say I've had a sad story. My childhood was very very sad. There have been moments that I have felt shame over it but all in all I felt really thankful because I know it is caused me to seek the Lord with all of my heart soul mind and strength. Also the hard things of my childhood have caused me to be tenderhearted toward hurting people. I can imagine I could End up like many of them had the Lord not saved me. I see so many people blame the way they are today on the childhood and it really hurts me. It hurts me because I know that Jesus can heal them and turn with the devil meant for bad too good if they would only let him into that place. I say share your story of pain and let others know that no matter what God is faithful and able to turn it for good! I know that I have the family I have today because of the past I had that he is restored the years the locus have eaten. Great post my friend.

Christine said...

Thank you, Tesha, for sharing your perspective. I am sorry to hear that your childhood was so sad. You have a wonderful attitude. Bless you.

Anonymous said...

I read this the other day, when it was posted and I wanted to comment, but I wanted to consider my words first. I too had a sad story (you've read a summary of it, I think, over on my blog). I think this is why I was drawn to your blog - because you have such compassion, and such a genuine heart and desire for doing right and doing good. I relate to that. Compassion learned through hardship can be something quite beautiful. It is one of God's mysteries.

Something Tesha wrote resounded in me too - if only people would turn to Jesus. I have had that discussion with my husband, along the lines of 'how on earth do people manage without God?!' and he replied 'they don't - you've seen them' and how right he was!

BUT my deep, deep desire is that churches would be much more open to damaged people, and not judgemental. Damaged people make damaged choices and often that is because they never learned any other way. In my case, I did not even comprehend that I could make choices - abuse strips away the ability to make choices so you grow up not being able to recognise where the 'I' begins. You can't even love properly because you have no sense of self. I don't know - it's hard to explain. Don't get me wrong, this is never, never an excuse for hurting other people, but instead of judging 'low-lifes', 'drop-outs', 'losers' the church should say 'you are welcome - we are all sinners here' (but the church should not be naive, either, because there will always be wolves hiding among the sheep).

I guess it is summed up in this passage from Matthew 9:10-13
'Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.”

(Forgive me for such a long comment!)

Christine said...

Yes, I completely agree that churches should be less judgemental, but I don't know how to get them that way. They say we feel prejudice when we are haboring fear. It must be that - fear that leads churchgoers to want to keep their distance from broken people. God knew that without broken people, there would be no one to comfort the afflicted, and I think that is why he allows dsyfunction. When someone is comforted in Jesus' name, it shines God's glory. In this way, we can look upon our sad stories as a blessing, not a curse. But still, there are consequences to sin and God doesn't always take those away. The pain someone from brokenness feels doesn't disappear, no matter how many years pass. It gets better, and when we are close to God it is completely manageable, but I'm afraid it doesn't disappear. And if it did, would we look forward to heaven as much? Probably not.

I always appreciate you, Sandy. I feel a kinship with you not because of our stories, but because you are not afraid of brokenness. You are open to its blessings and ready to comfort its victims.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You have really challenged me there - 'not afraid of brokenness' somehow feels like putting into words what God has gifted me with and is calling me to. I will pray about that. Thank you.
Sandy x