As I sit and listen to God speak my story, I'm consistently struck by how beautiful it sounds.
It's not that He's leaving out the hard parts. Not at all. It's not that He's glossing over them with purpose or redemption. No. He speaks the broken narratives of my story in the same way He speaks the glory of it, and I think maybe that's the difference: He speaks in consistent love.
It's a voice I just can't match. Try as I might, all the time in the world and all the words in the language are not sufficient for me to tell my story in half as beautiful a way as God tells it. It's frustrating. Because I really want to share my story in this beautiful way. But as I sit and listen to Him speak, I know it's not in our language and it's not in our time; it's in our voices that we differ.
When I tell my story, you can hear my voice crack. You can hear the weariness in my words as I trudge through this or that broken scene. As I try to talk my way out of all the brown paper bags that I've worn to hide my shame over the years. You can hear my voice rise and fall with the drama - with the excitement, with the fear. You can hear the strain in my voice as I emphasize one moment over another, as I try to get you to read my story in the way I am trying to tell it. Routinely, my story is marked up with this world, edited, revised, emphasized. And even though most often, what I'm trying to speak is beauty, I end up saying so much less.
It's because, and I'll admit it, I'm not really speaking in love. Love...is a hard thing to have for our own stories. Now, I love the God who tells my story, and that love sometimes comes through in my voice. I hope it does. I hope that when you hear me speak about the incredible things God is doing in my life, you understand how deeply I love Him. For real. And I love some of the characters in my story, and I hope you hear the love I have for them, too. Sometimes, I even have that kind of love for myself.
But all in all, love for God, love for characters, love for the developing self...these are mere shadows of the kind of love we're supposed to have for our stories. A shadow of the love I'm supposed to have for my story. And I'm finding that I can love God, love others, love myself (which is the Biblical order, I suppose) and still not reflect any love for my story.
That's why when God speaks, it's something beautiful and when I speak, it's something less. God speaks in consistent love. Not just love for me. Not just love for others in my story. Not just love for redemption, although all of that is there. He speaks in deep love for my story itself.
Deep, deep love.
Which is weird, right? Because we live in a world that loves a good story. You'd think we'd be better at this. I'm a writer and a minister and I spend so much of my time wrapped up in stories; you'd think I'd be better at this. But I'm not. We're not. There's just something about story when it becomes personal that is so hard to love.
What's up with that?
It's pride, probably. Like we all think we're supposed to have these pretty stories. Like we all think we're supposed to have sunshine and rainbows and little drops of dew resting on all the flowers. We look at our scars, at our wounds, at our brokenness and we start to think it wasn't supposed to be this way. Not our story. Our story isn't supposed to be such a mess. It's supposed to be beautiful. So we do our best to edit our stories, to tell them with all the drama and inflection that we can, to try to capture the beauty of who we are, of where we've been, of where we're going. We tell our stories in strife, struggling to make them make sense. Struggling to make them captivating.
But they're never more captivating than when they're told with love.
And if you don't believe me when I say that, sit down a spell and listen to Love speak. Listen to God tell your broken story for awhile and tell me it's not captivating. Tell me it doesn't sound beautiful. You can't do it. It's amazing.
So that's what I'm working on right now. As I sit and listen to God speak my story, I'm listening to Love echo through it. I'm discovering how beautiful it sounds, and I'm doing my best to love my good story. Because it is a good story, warts and all. But only when Love tells it.
So I'm working on love.
Because when you hear me tell my story, I want you to know how deeply I love God, how passionately I love others, how sometimes, I find a way to love even myself. But I want you to hear, too, how much I love my story. Not because it's pretty, necessarily, but because it's beautiful.