Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting Into the Story

...so then I looked at her and said, "That's Tebow, not TiVo. Tivo is...well, never mind. It's just Tebow."

I guess you had to be there.

As a writer, one of the sticking points with any new project - or any new phase of any old project, for that matter - is figuring out how to get into the story. Most of the time, I know what I want to say. I know where I'm going, and I might have a vague idea how I'm going to get there. The problem is getting going, getting into the story with a lead or a catch that lets you, the reader, follow along and actually understand anything I'm about to say.

Because most inspiration, if not all, doesn't start where the story needs to start. The inspiration for any project - a chapter in a book, a devotional for a newsletter, a post on a blog, a speech, whatever it is - the inspiration is the meat. It is the hard-hitting point. It is the take-home lesson. It is the middle of the matter, the heart of the story. The story to be told isn't "now." We know that story; we are living it. It would be gone before we could even start the words. Any good story to be told pulls us toward something more. Any good story is an invitation into the story.

To get to the story that is inspired to write, I have to come back and meet you here to lead you there. It's just not always easy to figure out where "here" is or where to jump in.

I can easily spend hours, days, if not weeks, staring at the meat of the story, the part that's been on my heart to write, and agonize over where to go back and pick you up to get you there so it makes sense. Otherwise, it's like walking into the middle of any good story, laughing at the punchline because everyone else seems to laughing but always wondering, "How did we get here?" The story loses something if you don't get into it the right way.

The truth is that most stories aren't written from the first word to the last word. They don't start at the beginning and wrap up at the end. Most stories are written in the middle, to be the stories they were inspired to be, then fleshed out to pick you up and to lead you out. The first sometimes comes last, and the last sometimes comes second. But the meat comes first. It has to.

That's how you remember what story you are telling.

The same is true for the stories we are all invited to tell, not with our words but with our lives. God invites us into His story, to tell something of His love and promise. And you know what, I have the same trouble with His story. Perhaps you do, too.

God didn't write our stories from beginning to end, starting with the first word and ending with eternity. He wrote the last word first; He gets final say. Then, He wrote the middle.

He started with you in mind, but He didn't write you first. He wrote the middle of your story, the meat of the matter, the heart of your purpose. He wrote the part He needed filled, then He went back and created you to fill it. He started with His love, with the story He was telling...then He went back and picked you out - picked you up - to bring you along into the storyline and to tell His story.

Then He puts this story into your heart. You pray and seek, ask and knock, and there it is - this story God wants to tell through you. But even then, He doesn't start where you are. He starts in the middle, showing you where you're going, what you're doing, who you are in His kingdom, according to His plan and the creation of you.

If you're like me, this is where you get stuck. This is where you look at this story, and it is so much in your heart that you could absolutley burst. You're longing to tell it. You're ready to go. You've got the energy in you to move behind and within this story. You are ready to start talking. It's not your words; it is your life, and you're ready to live it.

Just one problem: how do you get THERE....from here?

A lot of us spend so much time trying to write the beginnings of our stories, our journeys from here to there, our pursuit and our adventure to our passion. We spend so much time trying to figure that out that days, weeks, months, even years pass and we realize we're no closer to living our story than when it first sank into our hearts. It's still there, that passionate fire burning; we just aren't living it. Because we never could figure out how to get there.

But I'd like to think that living is a lot like writing. I know it is. I know I could spend a lifetime sitting here, looking at the blank page, and trying to figure out how to start while the heart of the story burns within me and I'm longing to tell it. I know I could waste it.

Or I could - we could - just start telling our stories with what we have. Start in the middle, where the meat and the meaning are. Start with what we know about our story, the heart of the matter, the story we are burning to tell. Just start telling it, whether you know how you're getting into it or how you're getting out of it, start talking. Start living.

That story is on your heart for a reason. It is there as an invitation...

And when you start writing it, God promises: you will wake up one day and just know you're living it, and you will wonder how you got HERE from there...and He will show you. He will show you how, when you dove into the thick of it, He was able to go back and pick it up from where you were, leading you to here, and taking you on the road to eternity.

So start with what you've got. Start with what you know. Start living it and don't worry about the details, whether it makes perfect sense right now or not. Don't worry about getting there from here.

There is wisdom in your story. Whether you see it yet or not, your role as a bit actor in God's creation is just to play it out. Dive right in and start talking. Let your life speak.

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