My story, like yours, has all the elements of a good story: a narrative arc with potential for deep meaning and adventure that flows through the constant interplay of ordinary moments, tension and resolution. As the chapters unfold, there is beauty and horror, relationships and solitude, romance and conflict, faith and doubt, plans and surprises, indescribable weariness and uncommon strength, mystery and imagination and heroics and fear and….more. It’s astonishingly rich.
But that’s not all. My life story is set within a much larger one: God’s redemptive Story that encompasses every second of human history and eternity. The span of my life is a sliver in a large narrative that centers around the display of God’s glory in His Son, Jesus, and the full implications of His gospel, His purposes and His reign. Nothing happens outside the Story.
Sometimes, I can follow my story within the Story. In other words, it’s comfortable. I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, and can see at least some of what the Lord is doing in and around me. Those are the “normal” chapters.
But then, there are chapters in the story that make no sense whatsoever. It’s like you turned the page and everything shifted: plot, setting, characters, language, genre—all different. One day, the story is a sweet romance tinged with joy, shared dreams, transparent hearts, nurtured faith and lots of laughter. Turn the page and it’s a horror tale with pain, dark corners, shadow people, nagging doubts and whispered curses. That’s just inside me—not to mention others in the story with me. And I’m a pastor!
Here’s the thing: my father God is the author who holds the pen that is writing in both chapters. “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.” (Ps.139:16) “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28) All the good stuff—promotions, one true love, dreams fulfilled, deep contentment–and all the negative twists in my story—failure, sickness, hopes crushed and unanswerable questions—are under His loving, sovereign, providential care.
I don’t know how—and certainly not why- but My Father is on both sides. He is in both the tensions and the resolutions of my story, for His glory and my good. The chapters are good.
I have been in a chapter of pain, shadows and doubts for awhile. It has been hard to live this: hard on the heart and hard on faith. It has felt like an unrelentingly bruising dead-end. But it pressed me to the cross, the empty tomb and the throne unlike anything else could have. It shaped my soul—permanently. It reminded me that I am often clueless and desperately dependent on Jesus. That I am broken and still loved. That I am free. And that is good, but no less difficult to live.
But yesterday, my Father’s merciful hand turned the page to a fresh new chapter in my life. The faith-family (no my faith-family) at Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, KY invited me to serve as their lead pastor. I accepted, with joy and a deeply humbled heart.
I don’t know where the story goes next. I never do, really. But the sun has broken through the clouds. Hope is rising. The rhythms of this dance are at once familiar and exhilaratingly fresh. Laughter is just around the corner. And mostly, my Jesus is already there and He is beckoning me to follow Him into tomorrow.
I’ve got a feeling this chapter of “My Life” is going to be good.