I love telling stories. I think you could give me any subject or even just a word and I could weave a tale about something we or some friends have experienced. After I’d called a friend to tell her the latest thing that had occurred in my life, she commented, “Julia, I think God has things happen to you just so you’ll have more stories to tell.”
All of my life I’ve been a person who anticipates things to happen in my day that will be humorous or from which I can draw a lesson. In other words, I expect stories to emerge from my day to day experiences. I love stories so much that I teach whole seminar on storytelling where I say that in order to tell a story, you must see a story.
After a hard year, I need to take my own class instead of teach it. I have to admit that most of the stories I’ve told within the past few months were ones from years ago instead of fresh ones built on today’s events. I’ve fallen into a pattern of trudging through a day instead of seeing it as an adventure. As I read in Hebrews 12 this morning, I heard its encouragement to grab the day and live it to its fullest.
Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
First, the writer reassures us that we are not alone. We are running a course that thousands have successfully completed. Now they are part of a “great cloud of witnesses” that cheer us on as we run the race God has set before us.” And they don’t act like a typical crowd at a sporting event, only cheering when you do well and moaning when you blow it. They are encouraging us that if they, with all their flaws and problems could make it, so can we. They inspire us to see the big picture and press hard to win the prize. They also urge us to never give up and watch and cheer for us every step of the way.
Second, the writer pleads with us to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the one who sets the course, who writes our script, and brings the race to its close. It’s He who offers His strength and wisdom and power to us as we maintain a faith lifeline to Him. As we look at Jesus we see someone who endured agony and pain like we will never see and who stayed the course, completing the task before Him, for one reason only—He loved us.
Third, the writer urges us to get rid of anything that would impede us or trip us up as we run to win. A wonderful friend can’t tell me anything without getting off on “bunny trails”, as she calls the way her mind wanders from one path to another. It may be alright when you tell a story, but when you’re running a race, you end up losing sight of the finish line and may never find your way back. We are to set up road blocks to keep us off paths that send us in the wrong direction and untangle our feet from vine-like weeds that try to trip us up.
Last, the writer begs us not to lose heart. Life is not a simple thing. It is hard. It is discouraging when nothing seems to be going as you planned it nor taking you where you thought you needed to go. Yet, as we keep our eyes on Jesus, each step is full of His presence and “in His presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). If Jesus could endure the cross because of the “joy set before Him,” how can we not have joy in our journey?
Every day is a challenge. Good things happen unexpectedly or troubles hit you until you feel like a grape being squeezed dry. You always have a choice. You can see things as a coincidence and a burden, or you can look at each event and see God’s hand in bringing it into your life. The great things become “Look what joy God planned for me today” and the burdens become “Look at the opportunity God has given me to exercise forgiveness, learn a lesson or begin to trust in Him instead of myself for answers.” Sometimes the trial just serves to let you see that that you have more strength than you thought you had to get through a tough problem or to help you begin to empathize with people around you. Whatever happens, there is a story. How it turns out depends on your attitude.
The benefit of viewing life this way is that it is never boring. Stories began to jump out at you from everywhere. In just recounting an event, things can fall into perspective and suddenly a trivial thing can become a story that adds insight and meaning to your life. Seeing a story is possible when you live with your eyes wide open.