I like happy stories. They are so easy to narrate.
I didn’t write Mary Poppins, but I can narrate every event by saying that even when Mr. Banks was mean and dismissive to his children, it was because Mary Poppins needed to come in to save the family. All along, the author knew this magical story would warm the hearts of readers forever, and in the end, Mr. Banks would come around and value time with his children. The end justifies the means.
I dislike stories with sorrow. They are painful to narrate.
One year in school, I had to read ‘The Kite Runner.’ After the horrifically sad first few chapters, I made my friend finish it for me and tell me what happened in a factual, non-emotional way. That story was impossible for me to narrate, because the events that occurred were indescribably terrible, and I could take absolutely nothing good from them.
I don’t like long roads to the “happily ever after,” and I will avoid stories that make me wait for it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of living to realize that life doesn’t always provide short roads to “happily ever after.” And most of the time, we have little control over the sorrow and pain life can bring. I’m smart enough to understand by now that I can’t be the author of my life. Life is something I can’t always control, and I believe that God has already written my story. However, I love to narrate my story when possible.
Here’s an example of God’s writing and my narration of His work:
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was miserable. I loathed school more than I could stand, cried everyday about mean girls, and obsessed over every little thing. God wrote that difficult year of my life into my story.
Years later, I narrate that part of my story this way:
My sophomore year of high school brought struggles I hope to never endure again. But because of it, I began dual enrollment the following year, graduated college early, and I met my husband. Not to mention I learned how to stick things out when times get tough.
It isn’t very hard to narrate that part of my story and describe how God orchestrated that year to happen for a reason that was beautiful.
New York Times bestselling author, Lysa Terkeurst, touches on this topic in her recent book. She describes this idea of narrating God’s writing as “tying stories up in a bow.” I like this metaphor because it describes how we can justify bad events in life by making them all neat, clean, and pretty.
As I grow older, life brings things that are harder than the mean girls I faced at fifteen. These things are uglier. And way messier. I know that God is my author. I know He is a good author. I know He has my best interests at heart. But if I’m honest, when I look at some of the events that occur in my story, I wonder what on earth God was thinking. It makes no living sense to me why some things happen. But here I go, plastering on a smile as I tie my beautiful bow, narrating the events with a justification that I make up about why God wrote this part.
I’m sorry, but this narrator needs a little help.
How in the world can you justify with a beautiful bow, nor would you want to justify with a beautiful bow, someone you love dying tragically?
How can you justify enduring abuse of any kind?
How can you justify suffering prejudice?
How can you justify going through a divorce?
How can you justify having a miscarriage?
How can you justify receiving a fatal diagnosis?
I want to blacklist these movies forever. Someone go get me any Julie Andrews classic and leave me the heck alone.
I wonder if oftentimes we think that when bad things happen, we have two choices: To question why and blame God, or to be positive and narrate for him. The former seems just morally wrong and pessimistic, and the latter seems sickly optimistic and pretend. What other option do I have?
I wonder if the third option is believing there is beauty in mystery. In not knowing what lies ahead. In not understanding why certain things happen. And perhaps, the beauty is not having to wear yourself out tying things up in beautiful bows. Maybe I could allow myself to be confused.
To voice my uncertainty to friends.
To shed tears over what is ugly.
To just not know why.
This doesn’t look like blaming God, it isn’t being pessimistic, it’s not narrating for him, but it is simply sitting in the mystery.
While sitting in the mystery, you can connect with others who have similar hard events written in their story that they are desperately trying to narrate. You will bring an overwhelming sense of comfort to their journey. You will also begin to see things through a different lens. Because of what God wrote into your story, you will notice things you normally wouldn’t see without the difficult parts. Finally, you will develop a greater understanding of your purpose. With tears in my eyes, I share this quote with you from Lysa’s book:
“Why did this happen? Because there’s someone else in the world who would drown in their own tears if not for seeing yours. And when you make one human simply see they are not alone, you make the world a better place.”Lysa Terkeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way
Of course, stories are better with happy endings. Some of the most moving and inspirational stories ever told are ones that seem to be tied up in bows. And our stories might end like that, too.
But most of the time, I feel like I am in constant transition and the happy ending seems far off. When you are in the midst of adjustment and transition, events happen that are difficult to narrate. This is when I can sit myself down in the mystery of my moment.
In the midst of a failing business, and you’re not sure how you’re going to make ends meet, sit in the mystery – is there someone you can connect with that needs to hear your story?
In the midst of starting a new career, and you’re not sure where the open doors are, sit in the mystery – look with fresh eyes. Where is God perhaps putting doors in your path that you keep walking right by?
In the midst of moving to a brand new place, and you’re struggling to make friends and feel at home, sit in the mystery – use this time of complete vulnerability to notice the things you long for the most. Are these things you deeply need or perhaps already have?
Your conclusions will be muddy. They’ll be messy. They’ll be really confusing. Your bow will probably look like a three-year old tied it.
But the fullness that comes when you allow yourself to sit in the mystery?
That is what brings the best narration.
Sincerely confused but okay with it,