Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Note on a New Story, a Better Story

Once upon a time there was a girl who didn't exist.  It was her job, in fact, not to be a person at all.  She lived without a dream, a heart, or a will of her own.  Now she lived with a noble purpose, to be sure, for she lived to serve and to help others, but with that task somehow came the addendum that she herself must need and require as little as possible.  She must not be different.  She must not be separate.  She must not be.  In fact, in order to serve her 'master' most lovingly, she had to be, instead of herself, whatever was needed.  Her life wasn't her own; you could say that she was a slave.  She grew up in bondage.  She knew no other way.

You could call this girl Cinderella and it would be fitting in many ways.  It would be most fitting because she made her bed in ashes and believed that this was ultimately where she belonged.  But her name was not Cinderella.

Once upon a time I discovered that the Cinderella story was not working for me.  In fact, it was killing me, and it wasn't glorifying to God, either.  I needed a new story.

Praise God, He wasn't content to leave me in the ashes where I had made a life for myself.  As He did for His people, He saw me in my slavery and heard the cries of my heart.  He reached down into my ashes and He called me out.

The story I want to live now is the story He is telling in me and for me.  It entails discovering and living from and caring for my heart.  God calls it "taking the land" (the land of promise) another similarity to the story of the Israelites as they were delivered from their slavery.  For me, taking the land means discovering who I am, my gifts, abilities, and limitations, investing in these and offering them to the world - not because it meets pious church standards but because it is what God created me, a unique creature, to do in the time that I'm given.

This new story, this "taking the land" means that I want to practice, hone, and develop my writing and speaking skills.  The truth is, I want to write, to write about recovery and healing, to share my testimony as an offering of hope, if for no other reason than it honors the heart God has given me and the new story He is writing in and for and with me.  I've started living this out through the creation of this blog.  But I want to write a book.  I want to write a book about emotional stewardship and what it means to grow up and become a mature disciple of Christ.  I want to write about relationship because it is something that we don't seem to know how to do in this century.  I have the first book in mind - even a title - and I have many of the chapters outlined.  This is part of my new story, part of taking the land, part of advancing the Kingdom as God has called me to do as me, not as Cinderella.

More than that, I want to write music.  I want to offer the music that I have written to the world.  I want to submit songs to the USA Songwriting Competition one after another, year after year.  I want to grow from the feedback they offer.  And if what I have to offer should be something that others need to hear, then I have to be willing to offer it and to keep offering it until it does the work that God has ordained it to do.

Ultimately, the new story that I want to live into and out of, that I MUST live into and out of, is a story in which my heart thrives instead of merely surviving.  It is a story in which I embrace and accept all of who I am and how I am uniquely made and the gifts I have to offer, however humble, meager, or limited - whether they meet the traditional standards of Christian love and service or not.  Writing and singing - let's face it, they're not "build a shelter for the homeless" or "raise $100k for children dying of AIDS."  But the new story that God seems to be calling me to, it is a story in which, if He has put it in my heart to write and to sing, then that is what I must do, and do with all my heart.

It is too late for this piece to count as an entry for the Living a Better Story opportunity recently offered by Don Miller, but I wanted to put the words down anyway, to make some stab at capturing the competing images, articulating the competing stories that were and still are trying to claim my life and my attention - because in the writing, whether for a contest or a conference or not, is a step toward living my new story.  And a conference like the Living a Better Story Conference, even if it it's not this year, is a chance to reach out to others who are straining to hear God's story above the cacophony of voices trying to tell them who they are and what they should do with their lives.  I am convicted that such an act of reaching out and connecting with others in something like this, whether at this time or in the future, is by itself a step toward living this new story of thriving instead of merely surviving.  But the the inspiration and the accountability of fellowshipping with others who are serious about not only hearing God's story for their lives, but actually doing something about it - that isn't just a step, that is a leap toward doing the same myself.  So though the time is past for this particular opportunity, I will live into my new story regardless, and if it is my story indeed, there will be other chances.

One day I hope to have the chance to learn from, even be mentored by, another author.  That was something that I thought about as a wild possibility that could come from attending a conference like Living a Better Story.  It looks like I may want to start, however, with picking up A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and finding out what all the fuss is about.  There is more than one way to skin a cat, take the land, or live a story.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.