We have to be very careful when we look at each other and see the story God's telling because this is one area in which it is so painfully easy to be wounding to one another.
It's very tempting to want to look at one another, see what God appears to be doing in someone, and then hold them to that standard. I can't tell you the number of persons who have looked at me with judging eyes and declared something along the lines of that's not what God is doing in you.
But it's not enough for you to tell me what God is doing in me; it's not enough for anyone to tell another person what God is doing in them. Unless the person sees God's story for themselves, it feels like you're trying to stuff them into a story that's too small to hold them.
That's just the truth.
It's like telling someone who wants to be an English major that being an English major is a waste (with my sympathies to English majors, ok?). Their love for the language is just going to eat at them now until they prove you wrong. It's like telling someone who wants to take a chance and move to a new state that they'll never make it. All of a sudden, that other state is looking better and better. Maybe because it's forbidden. I don't know. I don't know why our brains and our hearts work the way they do, but they do.
When you try to hold someone to a story they haven't adopted for themselves yet, you shrink them. You box them in. They feel it. They feel squished, trapped, cornered. That other thing - whatever it is - starts eating away at them. It grows until it's so big a monster than they can't possibly ignore it any more, and they veer off in some other direction entirely. It's heartbreaking, but it happens.
Because you can't make someone live a story they haven't heard yet. And most of us are walking around not hearing the story God's telling in us.
So there's this delicate balance between seeing the story God is telling in someone and loving it...and getting them to hear that story. It's a story you can't just tell them; you have to...you have to love it.
You have to love the story in someone else so much that you can't help but smile when you see another chapter written. You have to love it so much that you take great delight, and even some ownership, in its character development. In their character development. You have to be so invested in the stories God is telling all around you that you can almost see what should happen next. And when it does, affirm that.
Affirm it not as a part of the story, but as a character of the character. Affirm someone not for finally doing what God wants them to do, but for...being loving, being caring, taking a risk, showing grace, extending mercy. Whatever it is that someone does that's in line with what God is revealing in them, affirm that. You don't have to mention that it's God's story, although feel free to mention that it's God's grace. God has made you such an incredible giver, you might say. Or God has given you an amazing love for (whatever population group).
When we respond to one another in this way, it feels like we're shrinking how big a thing this really is, how big it is to be living God's story for you. But in fact, what we're doing is inviting someone to live into that bigger story. You tell me that you look at me and see grace, and I'm going to feel a certain way. I'm going to feel what it feels like to demonstrate grace and you know? Maybe I like that. And maybe I start looking for ways to demonstrate more grace. And maybe it feels natural to me even more than it feels "good." And maybe as time goes by, I become more and more gracious until one day, I find that I've grown into the story of grace that God is telling in me.
Do you see the difference? It's far too easy to paint me into a grace box and make me feel bound by grace if you make it something that God is necessarily doing in me and that I ought to be on board with. But when you make grace a part of who I am and affirm grace in me, I get a chance to feel myself out as a gracious person and figure out whether that suits me and whether that's something I want to grow into. I get a chance to write my own story, and to build my own box. I get a chance to set grace up all around me and declare how far my grace goes. On the one hand, you limit me; on the other, you invite me to increase.
It's all about how we respond to one another.
So by all means, look around. Start seeing, and loving, the stories God is telling in the people all around you. But don't force anyone into their narrative. You'll end up diminishing them.
Invite them into God's narrative. He's the one writing anyway.