Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Best Stories of All

It was on this most ordinary afternoon that a young troubled man walked into the room...

This is not the first line of a story, but the middle of an ordinary life that quite suddenly made sense.

Our lives are not strung together with a series of unrelated events, but the unfolding of stories.  It is how -- from the beginning of time -- that God wraps up truth in a way we can understand.  The Bible is a book of stories, not from the imagination of man, but the chronicles of real people, their triumphs, utter failures, trip-ups, despair, messy situations, and the grace that underlies it all.

God is creating in each of us a powerful story, as real as scraped-up knees and as glorious as His redeeming grace.  The precious story God has given you is how we connect with each other.  And how we learn more about Him.

There are always huge turns in our life stories we never expect to happen.  And while we can't understand at the time, those heartbreaking scenes are dripping in purpose.  

A middle-aged bookkeeper just the other day saw that kind of value in her own story -- desperation over the death of her husband, caring for her multi-handicapped child, making ends meet, and keeping her eyes on the LORD through it all.  She was sitting at a desk in an elementary school office in Atlanta, substituting for the secretary who had just left for lunch.  Quite suddenly, a young troubled man walked into the office, pointing a gun in her face.  Carrying 500 rounds of ammunition, he had prepared  to die then and there and take the lives of as many people as he could, including the young children who attended school there.

She wasn't even supposed to be there, but divinely appointed.  She began to talk to the young man in a gentle voice, despite his rage.  He was ready to kill.  "I am not kidding.  This is for real.  You tell them," he directed her to announce on the school's audio system.  She followed his directions.  And then, she started to tell him her stories, how hard things had been, and how it all worked out.  "It's going to be ok," she repeated over and over to him.  She asked him some questions and listened compassionately to him.  She shared her stories, her real life hard stuff, even as he loaded up his guns and stuffed ammunition in his pockets.

After almost two hours, she talked him into putting his guns on the table and to lay down on the floor.  "I will tell the police that you didn't harm me," she said.  "It's going to be ok."  (To view the video of her story, click here).

It made me think about my own grandmother who hobbled around for so many years with rheumatoid arthritis.  Other than working in the yard and going to church on Sunday, I don't remember her being anywhere much but home.  And it always amazed me at the number of young people who came to our house and sat and talked with her.  It was a troubled time in our country-- sit-ins, riots, civil rights turmoil, and the nightmares of Vietnam.  "Nobody is listening to the young people," she said.  But she listened to them. And she told her own stories, not to compete with their hardships, but to connect with them.  And I can imagine her saying the same, "It's going to be ok."   Because that is what she had always told me, "God will take care of you. "  She lived that before me.  Even in her chronic pain.

The best stories of all are not the ones we read, but the ones we live.  They are the narratives that reveal to us and to others the story of God's faithfulness that we may know Him more.  We are part of God's bigger story of grace and redemption.

You have a story.  And God will use it for His greater purposes.  You have only to live it out.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might,
and the wonders which He has wrought.
...that the next generation might know them,
            the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
      so that they should set their hope in God...

                               Psalm 78. 2-4, 6-7

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