I’ve always loved stories. In my middle school years I discovered what is known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This event takes place during the month of November, and the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in the short span between November 1 and 11:59pm November 30. I loved the challenge this event presented and also found a thrill in creating the characters, fictional locations, spinning stories, and mapping out everything from the inciting incident, through to the final phrases that closed the story. As I have participated in this event over the years, I have invited others to join the journey with me. NaNoWriMo was the inspiration for the year-round writing class, called “Writers Unleashed!” which I started teaching during my years that I worked at my local library. Through this program, I had the opportunity to sit around the table with some of the most curious and creative minds that I have ever known and had the privilege of teaching. We spent many weekends over the years in a small, uninspired room with white walls, sitting around a table sharing stories, and writing together. They were all so very different, but all had a passion to write the story.
Over the years, I watched as their stories and ideas grew. My goal with this program was to take off any boundaries, and let them be as creative as they wanted to be with their writing. I wanted to get them in the habit of dreaming big, and believing in the impossible. These writers were amazing students, and now, friends. I look back fondly to those days when that small room in the back of the library became a haven for great dreams to be explored. I watch now as many of those students are actively pursuing those dreams. Through the years, those fictional characters in their stories were at times, the person they wanted to be, outside of the expectations, fears, and insecurities. They wrote their story, in some elements before they lived it.
What kind of story are you writing? What kind of character would create for yourself? Would you be the hero, or one watching in the background? This week, I have been thinking a lot about those times spent writing stories, dreaming up characters, creating conflict, bringing about a resolution, and all in a clean 250 pages. If only the story of our lives were that easy to pull together! But, unlike writing a novel:
- We don’t have so much control over the setting we find ourselves in, but we do have control over what we bring to it.
- We don’t have control over the things that may happen to us, but we do have a choice in how we respond to them.
- We don’t have control over the turning of these pages, but we have a choice in how our story reads.
At times I have wondered if the narrative had changed, would we still have those passages in the Bible? How would the story have been different?
What if Noah had chosen to listen to all the other voices around him instead of believing God and did not build the ark?
What if Abraham did not obey God when he was called to place, leaving, even when he did not know where he was going?
What if Jochebed decided to not put Moses in a basket into the Nile?
What if Rahab had not welcomed and hidden the spies?
What if David chose to not face Goliath?
What if Queen Esther did not go before the King, her husband, on behalf of her people?
There are so many other examples, but this is what they have in common – they lived by faith, and they were obedient. Because of that, we see even today the legacy that was a result of those choices. Many of these examples are mentioned in Hebrews 11, commonly known as the “Hall of Faith.” When we look at the stories of their lives, we do see that they did not do everything perfectly, but they did have faith in the author of their story. in Psalm 139:16 (NLT) it says “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
God wrote your story before the pages started turning, before you were conceived, before you took your first breath. You might be wondering how this could be, when perhaps you have lived a life making poor choices and reaping the consequences, or maybe it wasn’t even your decisions that made you responsible for it, but you have ended up in painful places due to the choices of others. Would God really plan all of that pain in your life? I do not believe that God is the author of your pain, but he will redeem it. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This doesn’t mean that we will not have trouble, in fact, we are promised trouble and tribulations. But we can be confident that God can redeem that pain for purpose.
We live in a fallen world, and our stories are intertwined in ways we cannot always understand. God mapped out our days before we lived a single one, but it is our choice to make every day if we are going to live by faith, walk in obedience, and live the story He has mapped out for our lives or not. We read of the “race of faith” in Hebrews 12:1. “…let us run with endurance the race marked out for us…” Run with endurance, that is, a deliberate purpose, run with intention. The story God mapped out for you, is greater than just you. Your story was masterfully woven and your faith, and your obedience, and your run with endurance, will make an impact greater than what you may know.
Just like for my writers, that little room was a place to dream, share, and write stories, unhindered by the influence of the opinions of others outside it all, we need to get into our prayer rooms and seek the One who mapped our story before it began, and then live intentionally, by faith, and with endurance. Your story goes beyond you. When you live the life that God designed for you, the impact it makes, and even the legacy it may leave exceed you, and are not about you, but the faithfulness of God. Write the story well such that, the faithfulness of God can be seen woven throughout it. Sometimes that will mean building where it doesn’t seem to make sense, like Noah, or going somewhere you do not know, but following God. Sometimes it will mean giving up something most precious, but God has a greater story line in mind. Sometimes it means facing giants. When those times come, will you step up to the moments and the choices you were created for and write the story?