Everyone has a story.
We start our stories on blank pages, choosing which parts we remember and which parts we forget, choosing whether to make ourselves wise or broken or funny. We tell stories as a way of reaching out to other people and reminding ourselves that we are not alone in our experiences. We make friends by telling stories.
I could write pages and pages of stories. I could tell you about the Chicago walk-up apartment I loved — the one with worn-out hardwood floors and big, drafty windows that weren’t remotely soundproof. I could tell you about the nights I spent lying in bed listening to rattling el trains and mariachi music, and how I found it endearing that my landlord was so concerned for my safety that he installed three smoke detectors in my kitchen (which my upstairs neighbors were probably less than thrilled about after an unfortunate incident involving burnt toast, a broom handle, and a few loud expletives at 7 AM on a Saturday).
I could tell you about becoming a real, certified teacher, and the battles I fought in my university’s registrar’s office in order to graduate, and I could tell you about how difficult it is to find a job.
With a few choice words, I could tell you all about the Illinois Department of Education, and the frustrating experience that it was to transfer my teaching license from Indiana to Illinois. I could tell you about being an art and a music teacher — I could show you photographs of smiling children and art projects and carefully designed lesson plans and handwritten notes from my favorite students. I could tell you about all of the different teaching jobs I’ve had over the years, and why after eight years of fighting for my career, I decided that it’s just not worth fighting for anymore.
I could tell you a lot of things about my life that hasn’t quite worked out the way I planned, but today, this is my blank page. This is the beginning of a new story.
This story is about death and resurrection, and the cycles of pain and renewal we go through continually throughout our lives. We tend to believe that salvation occurs in one single moment, but I think also that God’s work of salvation is continual – changing us bit by bit throughout the course of our lives. In order for something new to grow, something old has to die. We see this reflected in the seasons — we can see the way that the leaves must die before they can begin to grow again.
This story is about leaving, and hopefully also about coming home. Donald Miller puts it so much more eloquently than I ever could in the introduction to his book Through Painted Deserts when he says:
“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?”
This story isn’t all about me – it’s about all of us and the ways we’re linked together by shared experiences and God’s incomprehensible plan for the universe. And do you want to know the most exciting part?
This is just the beginning.