It helps me to take few steps back and look at my life. I see how my children have grown, I look at the impact my life is having on the world, I see the person I am becoming. I can see my life more as a story, and I feel less overwhelmed by the moment.
I keep a journal, and have for over 20 years. My collection of journals is the story of my life. I write about my struggles, successes, fears, joys, insights. I often write my prayers and record lessons God is teaching me. As God shows me who I am, I try to capture that on paper.
As with any story, there are different versions of my life story. First there is my story, as recorded in my journals and retold by me. I’m the main character, and it’s all about me.
Then there is the story of history. This will be the way I am remembered by the world, after I die. I don’t expect to make it into the history books—after all, very few people do. For most of us, we are remembered by only a generation or two, before we become mere mentions on tax records and tombstones.
Finally there is the real story, the story told by God. We will never see the real story on this earth. Before eternity we will never know entirely how our lives have impacted others. We’ll never know what a difference we have made in the kingdom of God. We’ll never know how our sins and virtues have been used by God in his ultimate story.
Because God is the ultimate Author, I am part of his story. When I forget about my role in God’s story, I get self centered, believing that life is all about me. Rather than becoming lost in God’s story, I get lost in my story. And I get more lost.
Of all my thousands of journal entries over the years, most have never been read again. I put the words to paper, crystallizing my thoughts and processing my experiences, but I miss out on the big picture. I need to go back and see who I was years ago. That will help me see where God is taking me on this journey.
So, here’s some advice I need to take.Take time to look back and make sense of your life. See what God is up to. The path of my life is leading somewhere, and the trail behind me helps me know where I'm going. If I never take time to evaluate, I won’t understand the big picture of my life. I won’t know how I fit into God’s big story.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the moment. When I do look back on my life, I remember feeling worried and tense many times. From the perspective of today, I realize that I could have really chilled out—it was going to work out fine. But I want that kind of confidence in the moment, as I live my life. I know Jesus works things out. By putting my trust in him, I can face life with joy, peace and certainty that he walks with me. I need to train my brain to take the long term look, and realize that today is another chapter in my story. He is writing it, and I can trust him.
Don’t be a boring character. Philosopher N. D. Wilson suggests that if we read the story of our lives, we would think that our characters were boring. I want to take risks, try new things, get into difficulties, and come out on top. It is much easier to fit in, blend in and not make waves. But what fun is that? Will that really advance God’s story?
I believe that the only story which really matters is God’s story. We don’t know who the truly important characters of history are. Today we can see whose names are in the history books, written from man’s perspective. But when we enter eternity, I believe we will all be surprised to discover what kind of life really mattered to God. My guess is that many of the big names in the history books will pale in comparison to the quiet, daring lives of disciples who made a big splash in eternity. That’s the kind of life I want to live. I need to think about it and live it.