I recently read a book called “Hiking Through” (often I read backpacking books when I have an insatiable itch to go on a long backpacking trip but alas, cannot). Aside from a man’s journey hiking the 2,160 mile Appalachian Trail, his constant reflection back on his life were all the things he’d missed out on by allowing himself to be busy and pursuing career or ‘stuff’ over being present and enjoying life. Ironically enough, between managing a few too many things in my life, have been processing that idea for a few weeks.
This week I read a short something called “Your Story and His Story” and consequently it stuck a deeper chord. The page long article written by Dr. R.L. Pratt Jr., caused me to ask myself some questions; questions I believe we, who call ourselves Christ followers, should consider.
Dr. Pratt presented the story of Hannah and Samuel (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10). In reading we see a heartbreaking yet hopeful story of a woman who experienced great pain and great blessing. Yet in the narrative we see a woman with a deep abiding knowledge that God’s story was bigger than she could see, and further that her story was a part of God’s. We may not directly relate to the experience of long being without child, then having the blessing of a child only to give him back in service to the Father in the Tabernacle, but we relate unreservedly to the pain of life, the ups and downs.
Every human on this earth (every honest human) can give an account of the ways we have been frustrated, disappointed, then elated, and again felt the sting of disillusionment. In reality our story may be nothing we would want to admit because it pales in comparison to Hannah’s story. On the other side, our story may greatly surpass Hannah’s and be nearly unbelievable. Here’s the beauty, it does not matter how big or small and comparing to others pain doesn’t help. We still have a scar, we still have our own heartbreak.
But more importantly, how do we see our pain? How do we see our ups, our downs, our insecure moments of doubt? Do we allow it to throw our lives into complete turmoil or do we ask God to show us glimpses of how our story is intricately woven into the bigger story He is weaving. I ardently believe that our stories are part of God’s greater story. For example,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:2-4
There are many other beautiful examples of God using our stories as part of His story, but frankly the entire Bible is a testament to the ways God uses broken, normal, weak people to accomplish His will. I believe it takes reading the whole thing (over and over) to really understand the depth of this. Picking and choosing little moments really doesn’t do justice to the beauty within The Word.
In Hannah’s story, along with many other, I am affirmed that God has not abandoned me or gives little consideration to my pain (be it large or small). He does not promise that He will remove the hurt of the world (remember Genesis & ‘the fall’), but He is faithful to be with me and use the pain to draw me close to Himself and restore our souls — everyone has heard Psalm 23. Go read it now.
So, with my relative rabbit trails — I want to get back to what I set out to say. How often do I dwell on my circumstances? Do I allow myself to compare my story with that of another friend? How often do I form conclusions that are false? How often do I believe ‘something else’ will make me happy? Do I let myself get caught up in dwelling on the worries of this world versus dwelling and abiding with Christ? How often do I sit an relive the past or worry about the future?
I don’t want, nor do I believe God wants us, to steep in the mire or worry, regret or disappointment. He has continually blessed us and throughout scripture promises to grow us and pour out wisdom through His Spirit. If that’s not a blessing I don’t know what is.
I want to be present. I want to be. I want my eyes and heart to be open to the ways God is moving around me each day. I want to enjoy time with my wife, my family and my friends now. Because we aren’t promised tomorrow or even our next breath. I don’t want doubt or worry to cloud my thoughts. I don’t want my ‘to do list’ to keep me from Abiding, dwelling and making my real home in Jesus. I don’t to make it to 31 years of age and think, “Ugh, what have I even done with my life”, then proceed to list off my pathetic disappointments. I want to choose joy now.
“You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is FULLNESS of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
— Psalm 16:11
I am going to choose to be. And ask the Father to keep me.
unrelated side note: In case you were curious, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is high on my wish list for the future. I would consider accepting applicants for hiking partners.