During the holiday season I enjoy the opportunity for reflection. At the year’s end life can be busy, but I like to make time to take a deep breath and think.
I find it helpful to take a few steps back and look at my life. I see how my children have grown, I look at the impact my life is having on the world, and I see the person I am becoming. I can see my life more as a story and I feel less overwhelmed by the moment.
I keep a journal, and have for over twenty years. My collection of journals is the story of my life. I write about my struggles, successes, fears, joys, insights, and more. I often write my prayers and record lessons God is teaching me. As God shows me who I am, I try to capture that on paper.
As with any story, there are different versions of my life story. First, there is my story as recorded in my journals and retold by me. I am the main character and it is all about me.
Then, there is the story of history. This will be the way I am remembered by the world, after I die. I do not expect to make it into the history books—after all, very few people do. For most of us, we are remembered by only a generation or two, before we become mere mentions on tax records and tombstones.
Finally, there is the real story—the story told by God. We will never see the real story on this earth. Before eternity we will never know entirely how our lives have impacted others. We will never know what a difference we have made in the kingdom of God. We will never know how our sins and virtues have been used by God in His ultimate story.
Because God is the ultimate Author, I am part of His story. When I forget about my role in God’s story, I become self-centered, believing that life is all about me. Rather than becoming lost in God’s story, I become lost in my story. And I become more lost.
Of all my thousands of journal entries over the years, most have never been read again. I put the words to paper, crystallizing my thoughts and processing my experiences, but I miss out on the big picture. I need to go back and see who I was years ago. That will help me see where God is taking me on this journey.
So, here is some advice I need to take:
Take time to look back and make sense of my life. See what God is up to. The path of my life is leading somewhere, and the trail behind me helps me know where I am going. If I never take time to evaluate, I will not understand the big picture of my life. I will not know how I fit into God’s big story.
Do not get overwhelmed by the moment. When I look back on my life, I remember feeling worried and tense many times. From today’s perspective, I realize that I could have really chilled out—it was going to work out fine. I want that kind of confidence in the moment, as I live my life. I know Jesus works things out. By putting my trust in Him, I can face life with joy, peace, and certainty that He walks with me. I need to train my brain to take the long-term view, and realize that today is another chapter in my story. He is writing it, and I can trust Him.
Do not be a boring character. Philosopher N. D. Wilson suggests that if we read the story of our lives, we would think that our characters were boring. I want to take risks, try new things, get into difficulties, and come out on top. It is much easier to fit in, blend in, and not make waves, but what fun is that? Will that really advance God’s story?
I believe that the only story which really matters is God’s story. We do not know who the truly important characters of history are. Today we can see whose names are in the history books which are written from man’s perspective, but when we enter eternity, I believe we will all be surprised to discover what kind of life really mattered to God. My guess is that many of the big names in the history books will pale in comparison to the quiet, daring lives of disciples who made a big splash in eternity. That is the kind of life I want to live. I need to think about it and live it.