Monday, November 1, 2010


Eugene Peterson, in Eat This Book, says “We live in an age impoverished of story.” I’m wrestling with the idea of story, of text: where do we find ourselves in the larger story? Who decides which stories are worth reading, worth remembering? What do we do with the words God gives us, with the Word God gives us? How do we live into the story God has given us?

My own story has unfolded, and continues to unfold, in ways very far from what I imagined. The adventures have been deeper, the challenges richer, the rewards sweeter, than I could have foreseen, yet I still struggle when the plot takes unexpected turns.

I struggle as well with the sense of call. I have many friends in their early twenties, wondering what God is calling them to, anxious to see the story settle into a more expected pace. Yet I’m learning calling is never complete – each day is a new word to be wrestled with; each morning the Word pulls me deeper into this story beyond my control.

In To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future, Dan Allender asks “What sort of author do you have?” My author is mysterious, wise, amusing, gracious beyond understanding. Yet, knowing that, I struggle, daily, with the longing to grab hold of the text of my life and write my own next chapter. Not because mine would be better. I know without question that whatever story I dream up for myself would be far smaller than the story God is unfolding.

It’s a question of pace: I want to get on with it. Show me the next thing, and I’ll run do it. But if the next thing is to wait, to listen, to be still and know who is God, and who isn’t, my fast-food self jumps up in indignation. I want explanations, instant assignments, obvious resolutions.

As I’ve been rereading the stories of the Old Testament, kings planning for war, women waiting for children, impatience emerges as an obvious point of temptation. More than one story takes a tragic turn out of sheer frustration with God’s apparent failure to speak or show up. Yet God’s glory is often shown in that space between desire and completion –

Section V of Burnt Norton, the first of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, describes the tension between movement and stillness, between desire and the timeless love beyond desire:
“Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.  . . .  The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.”

Words matter; The Word matters more. Our stories call us, yet their importance, and our own calling, is found in the larger story. And the patterns of our lives require times of stillness as well as times of movement. At each turn of the page, as each chapter unfolds, we’re drawn back to the painful task of waiting for the author of our stories to reveal his perfect plan:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.