Something happens when one communicates a strong conviction to another—particularly, a conviction believed to have been revealed by God. By God’s grace and leading, hopefully those listening (or in this case reading) can find a number of things, e.g., encouragement, inspiration, hope, or possibly even a beckon to somehow join hands with the other in this now shared conviction. This mode of communication, in its simplest form, could be considered as merely telling a story. But I think each and every one of us could attest to the fact that even “mere” stories can hold significant power. They often times evoke emotion, ignite a newfound passion or work as a forceful reminder.
No doubt, all of our lives are stories in progress. Since the inception of God’s creation, the greatest narrative known to humanity is unfolding. Whether a person chooses to recognize it or not is his or her decision, but it will continue to unfold nonetheless. Just as God uses humanity to take part in the countless supporting “imperfect missions” that contribute to His ultimate mission (if not entirely sure what I mean, the previous entry post deals more with this), so I must believe each of our stories is made up of and contributes to the ultimate story, the redemption story: God redeeming, restoring and reviving all creation (Rm. 8:19-25). Even in this very season, the season of advent, we wrap our story with His as we intentionally celebrate the Person of Jesus Christ in whom God’s narrative reaches its culminating turning point. Over and again we read in scripture the instruction and responsibility to tell the story; both God’s overarching narrative and our personal narratives that He graciously uses to help complete His (Ex. 12:26-27; Deut. 6:20-25; Joel 1:3; Lk. 8:39). And as much as it does for the listener, I am convinced that it may even do more for the one telling it. At least this has been my experience, specifically in the last six months or so.
I genuinely do hope and pray through the ongoing communicating of how God allows and uses our story to intertwine with the story of others here in Lawrence, that you are truly able to read it as an endless invitation. But as much as it is invitation for others, I find that it is also an extremely important step in the process for us. While we are a bit further removed, I think we can all still imagine what it was like for later generations to hear from parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents who were witnesses to all that God did in the days of the Exodus. As incredible and reassuring as it must have been for the listener, for the person who experienced firsthand these miraculous acts of the Lord, I would have to imagine that in recalling and retelling God’s faithfulness of the past, it was forever an opportunity for the individual to deepen his or her own belief in God’s continual faithfulness for the present and future. Because, if the same God that was alive then is alive today, and this God’s abiding faithfulness never ceased to provide in those moments, then why would it cease to provide today? Perhaps not identically, but without question, in all sufficiency.
If you are anything like me, the reminder of what God has already done is often one of the few consolations in sustaining belief in what He is doing and will do—especially during those “dark nights of the soul” (See St. John of the Cross for more on this topic). Since even the very first conceptual thought of moving to Lawrence, it has been incredible to me that when telling others of God’s direction and providence, both in the preparation stages and since being here, the recounting of these moments drives home their true significance in deeper ways than I knew were possible. Each telling draws us back to the particular occasion that took place and reminds us once more that the God who was faithful before, is being and will be faithful again. As much as I read the roller-coaster story of the Israelites and ask, “How could they not believe…again?”, I repeatedly am awakened to the reality that I have failed to believe…again.
In the communal story telling of what God has done and continues to do, the stories really become declarations, or at the very minimum hold the potential to do so. This word, declaration, can be defined as an “assertion of belief.” The declaration—or asserting/affirming of a belief—is a crucial step (at least for us—actually I should say at least for me. Wendy is far more steadfast than I. And our dog, Cysco, may be the most steadfast of us all—AND the most lovingly annoying. Although, in reality, Wendy, Abigail and Cysco would all undeniably agree I am the most annoying. I’m just not as skilled at doing it quite as “lovingly” as Cysco does)…continuing on: I believe the declaration piece assists in maturing the generally half-hearted, always questioning belief in what God has revealed or done, into an actualization. It aids in moving us from the place of lacklusterly (that’s not a word) hoping God’s word will come to reality, to hungrily expecting it to come to reality…His reality (Is. 55:11).
I am slowly realizing how Christ is using the telling of stories to transform my own heart, mind and soul. If the Lord uses anything that is written on this website to somehow encourage, inspire, or in anyway move to action on His behalf a person other than myself, praise be to Him. And as much as I feel led to tell, I still would much rather prefer to listen. So let’s get together so you can tell me yours. All individual narratives have value when viewed through the lens of the Larger Narrative at work. The community deeply needs them to be told and listened to…and we all deeply need the community—and that could be considered a conclusion to this entry and a feeble attempt towards a lead-in to the coming entry.
More to come soon. Thanks for reading, mom.
Until next time,
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…
(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)