Saturday, February 11, 2012

God messing with us: the deeper story of our lives

There is a lot more to us than the story that is told in high school yearbooks or on business resumes or in obituaries. It’s a story that’s veiled to the eyes of the world, but it is the deeper story of who we are. It’s our God story.

A couple of blogs ago I wrote about being woven into the fabric of God*. Each of us has a story that is like a thread. And our stories, our threads, come together with all the other stories of God’s people. They’re all woven together into the fabric of God’s story.

The thread of our deeper story has nothing to do with the places we’ve gone to school, or our employment history, or how many grandchildren we have. It's more than a list of our accomplishments or losses. It has nothing to do with the places we’ve lived or the amount of material wealth we’ve been able to accumulate. The deeper story of who we are is unfolding beneath that surface story. It may even be hidden from our own awareness. But if we’re paying attention, we know that this story is moving us forward through times of transformation, with God pulling us toward places we never dreamed of going.

It kind of works like this. We have this way of looking at our lives, a narrative that we imagine for ourselves. We know the way things work in our world and that’s what we expect. But then something happens that we don’t expect, something that challenges the way we look at our lives. And we have to adjust our story so that it’s big enough to contain that new experience. In the process, we grow. In big and small ways, we’re transformed. That's the way God messes with us.

We may be able to recognize the God moments in our lives when they happen, but at the time we’re not always sure about what they mean. That’s how it seems to work. We grow through experience, but it’s not just experience alone that leads to transformation. We need to find meaning from our experience. That happens when we give ourselves the time we need to process it.

In my lifetime I’ve had the opportunity to know many people who have had a close encounter with death and lived to talk about it. Whether surviving a near fatal car crash, or a serious heart attack, or some other narrow escape – they have been given another chance at life. And I always find it interesting what people do with an experience like that. There are those who are transformed by such an event. They use it to re-evaluate their lives and they consider what’s really most important for them as they go on with the new life they’ve been given. They’re much more aware of their relationship with God. The deeper story of their life that they once kept in the background is suddenly lived in the foreground.

But that doesn’t happen for everyone. Some people are given a second chance at life after a brush with death and they are unphased by it. Nothing changes for them. They continue their lives as if nothing has happened: satisfied with broken relationships, still caught in destructive behaviors, with no awareness of the deeper meaning of their lives beyond the normal day-to-day stuff that occupies their time. And when I’m with people like that, who miss the opportunity for transformation, I think, what a waste. They went through all that for nothing!

Of course, the same may be said for any of us, whether we’ve had a brush with death or not. We have experiences in our lives that can lead to transformation, but if we don’t take the time to search for the meaning in those experiences they’ve been wasted on us.

Socrates once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t know if it’s not worth living, but the unexamined life could easily become pointless, as the deeper stories of our lives are lost on us when we aren’t paying attention.

Are you aware of the deeper story of your life? Can you look beyond the story the world has created for you and consider the story God is creating for you? How has God been messing with your life? Where does your story meet God’s story? What is your thread that is being woven into the fabric of God?

* see "Hanging on by a Thread"

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