When my best friend harangued me into writing this blog, I thought I’d plop my little self down in a chair and write some cute kid stories about my wonderful offspring, and we’d all move forward together. She and I had this all figured out.
And that’s not what happened. The next thing you know, I’m writing about my faith, and how it’s developing, all the time. My dad called me one night and told me I had a sermon written for when I become a pastor. That was months ago. More of my blog posts have seemed sermon-esque to him since then. I might point out at this juncture that becoming a pastor is not really on my to-do list. It’s definitely on my father’s list of things for me to do. (Which could mean my dad is more feminist on my behalf than I am. Not a bad trait in a dad of daughters.)
My blog, my story, as I’m coming to see, encompasses more than me. How easily that fact gets lost in day-to-day life! From the time I get up to spend a few precious moments alone with God to the time I drop into bed exhausted and grateful at the end of the day, the tasks and sub-tasks head my way in unending succession. My story, I had started to assume, features me in prominent center stage, and removing me from that spot would be a show-stopper. Without me in the middle, I always thought, it wouldn’t be my story.
Writing this blog proves that theory wrong. Oh, yes, still the story gets told from my point of view, but other considerations slip into sight and open me up to the dismantling of my central role. It’s in telling my story that I start to find out what my story actually is and could be.
In the outlying areas, I recognize culture, faith, travels, sorrows, laughter and passions working their effects on the plotline. I see my worst defeats and best triumphs. I see the rules I’ve held dear, my hopes for others, my feelings and interactions.
You stop by to read, and you comment. I realize with shock that others – some of whom I’ve never met – cared enough to enter my story. Your reactions are so valuable to me; I love knowing my words aren’t out there alone. I drop by your places and comment, at first in a quid pro quo way, but as my interest and enjoyment grow, I comment because I want to. You take time to read, participate, share, build into my story. I want to join your stories.
Looking at what I write and how you respond, patterns start to appear. As they come into focus, I learn more about my story, learn to embrace surprises, joy, wide, wide mercy and compassion. Start shutting the door on judgment, exclusivity and legalism. I’m tired of me, me, and more me. I need to weave more grace, more love, more generosity into my story, and that means I have to widen my view, bring in more of God, more of you who read, less of me.
An engaging young woman in my Spanish class practices two types of past tense verbs by telling stories of her early years. During my turns, often I tell stories about my kiddos instead of my childhood stories. I can see my classmate’s eyes glaze over just a tiny bit; to her, I can see I’m an “old mom.” I remember that same glaze in my eyes in my 20’s. What is foreign to her, and was to me – giving up anything of myself and sacrificing parts of my dreams and abilities on others’ behalf – became my daily bread.
Until now, I’ve harbored vague shame about that. I’ve devalued my time with my family because it lacks any financial payoff. I’ve thought of myself as less than whole, in a way, because I’ve put others’ needs ahead of my own abilities and desires in this season of family life. I resisted writing a blog for over a year because I didn’t think anyone would want to hear what I had to say.
But the actual act of writing turns out to be a funny thing. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to write, and sitting down to type it seems like no more than making time to publish the message in my head. Other times my writing surprises even me. This week in Spanish class, for example, our teacher assigned an “autobiografía.”
I sat down to write, familiar with the usual material one includes in an autobiography. But I’d forgotten about the catch: we had to model our paragraphs on an exercise we’d already completed in class about childhood memories.
With that frame in place, the detail that popped out was the year I rode a bus across town to attend school in a historically black school, and the years that children from other neighborhoods rode the bus to our school. And, with buses in mind, out jumped the memory of driving downtown to leave the car for my dad as he worked late on Friday nights. When we visited the newsroom of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the telephone operator always greeted me warmly. Her name was Texas; she wore headphones and could connect calls to the right office with dizzying swiftness when she efficiently pulled up stretchy cables and plugged them into the switchboard panel in front of her. After leaving the entrancing, buzzing newsroom, we’d catch the city bus and ride home, usually arriving just in time to catch Donny & Marie on TV.
Never before have I included a switchboard operator named Texas or participating in elementary school integration in my autobiography. Or Donny Osmond, for that matter. Writing did that. Telling my story as the answer to a specific question did that.
That’s the benefit to me in telling my story, to you in telling your story: sometimes our stories end up telling us who we are in a way we have not yet seen for ourselves. It’s no accident that God tells His people to pick up stones from the bed of the Jordan River and take them along to build an altar with. He wants His story told among His people! Jesus sent His disciples out with the Great Commission to tell His story – His story of how He’d affected their lives. He wants His story told among the people who aren’t His people yet!
Start typing, start talking, pick up a pencil. We haven’t seen the next chapter yet. We can’t know what might happen, who might show up. How can we possibly wait any longer to find out more about our story and what God’s going to do next?