Does my story really matter? Is it any better or more valuable than anyone else’s? Could anyone see God’s living presence in it?
Don’t we all have those questions? We know our weaknesses and our mistakes. We know our sin and our limitations. We feel like our lives are pretty ordinary at best and way too messy at other times.
I had a conversation recently with a friend, not a close one, who had gone through a really rough time in his marriage. They had had a very hard time getting pregnant. They tried all the things you could try and then some. That put great stress on their day to day home life. Sometimes they fought. Sometimes they stayed distant. And the infertility disappointment went on for years.
They struggled to make ends meet for a while, even having to get outside help to have enough to eat. That was pretty humbling. They wondered where God was in that tough time too. And then, on top of that, he really betrayed her in a way that left her feeling alone, having to fend for herself, wondering how committed he really was to their marriage. They had been through an extraordinary difficult season together. As he recounted the story, I knew it had been difficult for him personally.
I was drawn to him as I listened. I was surprised and encouraged how God had met both of them through those incredibly difficult times. Lynne and I have struggled along the way – with different issues but struggled nonetheless. And we have recovered and returned to each other and particularly to God. But it has been messy.
My friend’s spiritual journey had not been a steady upward climb. It has been more like the stock market – up and down, but overall moving in the right direction. I resonate with that. I feel like God has met me along the way, has grown me some, and yet I continue to find ways and places where I screw it up. So, in a strange way, I was really encouraged as I listened to him. He was real, at least real in the ways that I feel real. And he was faithful… not perfect. I was struck that he kept coming back to God. They both did. I was encouraged by his story, as messy as it was.
You may have met my friend. His name is Abraham. He was the father of the chosen people. He leads off in the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’. But his story is remarkably normal.
I recently read and pondered Abraham’s early years. I was struck by his faith and by his failures. And I was encouraged by how I could see God at work in his real life story.
Here is my encouragement. God is working in your story too. You struggle to believe and then you fail. You think you should have it more together and you don’t. You fall off the horse of faith and then you get back on. You sin and you confess. You are forgiven and get back on the horse. God is working in your story, just like Abe’s.
Can you tell your story in a way that shares your humanity, God’s goodness, and your response to that goodness and mercy? If you had ten chapters (pretty short ones for the most part), what parts of your story (the places of faith and the places of failure) would you tell? What parts of your humanity, your struggles and your failures have led you to encounters with the God of hope? How has He met you in your mess? Your story really is a lot like Abe’s. It is real. It is salty. It is ordinary. And it chronicles not only your life, but the life of the living God who is at work in you. I would love to hear it sometime.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.