Recently, I submitted a three-part story for a children’s magazine to consider for publication — a diary-type chronicle of my life as a pastor’s kid. As I waited for a reply, I had already begun to count my chickens.
Diligently I calculated the compensation and multiplied it by three, imaged the cartoon-ish artwork that would illustrate the series, and hoped the editors would spell my name right. I even prayed about it and felt confident that the God who delights to give us good things would, without a doubt, make sure it got published.
Then came the reply. “Dear Contributor, we regret to inform you that your story is not exciting enough” and then, in bold red letters, they clarified “ALL 3 of them” as if I was confused.
I took a deep breath and held it for a long time before slowly letting it out. Not exciting enough? They should try living my life, I fumed sarcastically. After the frustration wore off, I felt like crawling in a hole and never writing again.
My fledgling writer’s heart felt as if it had been crushed. I had dared to expose my personal life and feelings only to have them reject it and then inform me it wasn’t exciting enough.
My initial thought was to question God. If he truly desired good things for me, like success, then why would He allow my work to be rejected and then so harshly criticized?
And then it hit me. Perhaps, He desired for me a greater, deeper lesson than the joy of success. Could it be that by traveling through the valley of rejection He only wished for me to live a better story — to turn criticism into motivation, disappointment into action?
In his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller states “Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
So how can we live a better story?
As I pondered how I could implement a better story into my own life, I imagined myself skydiving from a crystal blue sky, or going on a high risk mission trip to a war torn country. Maybe I would champion a cause to end human trafficking, or raise money for clean water wells in Africa. I could pursue my interest in rock climbing, take an art class, or run a 5k.
Visions of adventurous grandeur danced around in my head, all of them good ideas, but something inside held me back. Perhaps it was reality — reality of a kitchen that needs cleaning, schoolwork that needs completion, and a realization of financial limitations.
I felt as if I had listened to God’s calling to live a better story, but perhaps I had tuned out the rest of what He was saying.
In my eagerness to turn my disappointment into action I had inadvertently made a false start. I had yanked the pen away from God and begun to write what I thought would be a much better story with my life — a more exciting story. I plunged ahead only to crash into the brick wall reality.
But why, why would God invite us to live a better story and then at times seemingly limit us by our circumstances? I believe it is because when we are overwhelmed by our helplessness to alter situations, to play with the cards we are dealt, it is then that God can step in and work most powerfully.
When we’ve mistakenly tried and failed at every option known to our finite human reasoning, when we finally realize that it is impossible for us to write a better story for ourselves (let alone live it), and we fall exhausted and submissive at His feet, we then give Him permission to work mightily in our behalf.
But I have to wonder, is there a bit of a grey area, a blending, between our desire for a better story and the pursuit of happiness? Do we sometimes erroneously desire a better story for the sheer excitement, the recognition, that moment of joy? Do we fall into the trap of unconsciously blaming God for the circumstances that sometimes tie us down to a mundane everyday life?
We wake up, go to work or school, come home, go to sleep and then repeat. All the while thinking that perhaps God has laid down the pen — that He is taking a break from writing our story simply because from our point of view there’s really not a lot going on. Little knowing that He hasn’t forgotten about us, and with every experience, every act of service, every action, reaction, and interaction He’s writing.
It is one of our greatest privileges as humans to humbly come before the Creator of the universe and offer Him praise through the mundane.
One of my favorite quotes is by Rabindranath Tagore who said “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
When we love God enough to make every aspect of our lives a living sacrifice, when we sacrifice the outcome of our story, when we sacrifice our desires, hopes, and dreams, when we offer sacrifices of joy in the midst of pain, He delights to co-operate with us, to infuse His strength into our weakness, and build our faith muscles with each trying situation.
True to God’s giving character, this complete surrender of our story will not only strengthen us, but it will be a powerful witness to the joy of the Christian life.
Donald Miller states that “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”
No matter what chapter in life you find yourself living, whether God has called you to big responsibilities or asked you to serve him faithfully in the mundane, He hasn’t forgotten about you. He is still writing your story — you’re living in it right now, all you have to do is trustingly embrace this chapter.
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Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
Those rejections really do sting, but the lessons you gleaned from the experience are fantastic. Thanks for sharing, Sierra.
Wow, this gave me a lot to think about. Thank you Sierra and God Bless!
TIMELY and very instructive!
Wow, this was so inspiring! Honestly, I really agreed with everything you said, especially the idea that we’re desiring to do great things for God just for the excitement or publicity of it–I know I can attest to that! Thank you for bringing it back to what really matters–Jesus. What a blessing…it made my day.
Thanks so much for the reminder, Sierra!! I actually just finished Do Hard Things recently, and I was feeling like, ‘Oh, what can I do to help the world?’ I was thinking exactly how you described, then I realized that I was trying to take over and God has something planned, and maybe I’m still in the preparation stage.
Amen and hallelujah!
Brilliantly written, absolutely inspired! Thank you so much for this!
So many of the lessons you described in the article are lessons I have discovered. Rejection, which, when it comes from those to whom you are the closest, those you care about so much, those you completely trusted, is excruciatingly painful. Yet God worked in me through the pain; I grew greatly through that experience so many years ago.
I love this:
“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you
can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched
together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
This is a very difficult way to live. The only way through the past couple years that I have been able to survive is through God’s great grace. Yes, I wondered, why would God invite us to live a better story and then limit us by our circumstances? Only so when the time comes that our will to control and live our own life has been broken, and we humble ourselves and sacrifice our desires and hopes and dreams and kneel before Him to offer up ourselves and our lives as living sacrifices; it is then that God can step in and work most powerfully.
God has given me a vision. A great vision. I have heard his unmistakable voice calling me to this, and look forward to His great work in my life this coming year.
This was wonderful! I would really like to read the stories she originally submitted. Just because they didn’t get published doesn’t mean they weren’t meant to be seen.
Aww, you’re sweet Lacey! Maybe one day! 🙂
Interesting because yesterday I was thinking about being “happy” and what does the Bible say about it. The Bible says “happy is,” or “happy are,” in relation to a person being obedient to God and following Him or being persecuted for Him (among a few other things). Never does it tell us to be happy, or the modern day mantra of, “Don’t worry, be happy.” So the pursuit of happiness is not a God thing, it is a societal thing, probably coming to us thru the statement in our Declaration of Independence. Our “pursuit of happiness,” should always come from a desire to be obedient to God and to please Him in all things verses please ourselves, or anyone else. Thanks for this story. A great reminder that the world may reject us, but GOD never will. I tell my kids this all the time. I will let them down at some point, but God will not.
I think I know how you feel. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do about your situation, but other times you need to realize that there IS before you can make your life more interesting.
I thought there wasn’t anything I could do, being still in school, and without the best health, but one day I decided “My life is boring. I need another interest, and a goal.” I realized that I wasn’t content with my life because I was capable of more. I prayed and asked God to help me discover what He wanted me to do right where I was.
I started looking around, and was surprised to find all of the things that I could do! I now have a blog, (I love to write too:) write letters to my new pen pals, discovered some ways to minister to others using my creativity, and started my own online business!
It’s amazing all of the things that open up to you when you decide that you are capable of more, and can serve God right where you are, not just by doing the everyday things like cleaning, cooking etc. but by exploring your potential.
If you’re “stuck” at home, you can make it your ministry! You can look for new ways to be a blessing to your family members, maybe through sharing their interests, or learning new things together!
Maybe your focus is on learning right now, and this, like you said, could be your time of preparation.
Whatever it is Sierra, I’m sure God has a wonderful plan for you! Thanks for a thought provoking post! (I recently had a bit of a disappointment too, and I’m still trying to accept it as part of God’s plan:)
Wow, what an impacting article! “Little knowing that He hasn’t forgotten about us, and with every experience, every act of service, every action, reaction, and interaction He’s writing.” This is so true. Right now It might be hard to see how God could be working in my life, but behind the small situations(at times seeming frustrating and pointless) I run into daily, God is making me stronger. He is using this chapter of my life to prepare me for the next one. Thanks again for taking the time to write this!
Amen Hope! Thanks for the encouragement! And He IS making you stronger! God’s got amazing plans for you! Keep on keeping on! 🙂
Awesome. It’s so easy to get caught up in our idea of ‘success’ and not allow room for what God wants, even if it looks insignificant or mundane. The point is to follow Him wherever He wants, whether it’s on a scary adventure or to the kitchen to cook.
m still in prep stage TOOO!!! But I feel as if God has planned great things for me NEXT WEEK!! CAN’T WAIT GONNA PASS OUT! OMG I LOVE YOU GURL! I HOPE GOD BLESSES UR FUTURE & WRITING! WAY TO GIVE IT ALL TO HIM I HAVE TOO! IT JUST FEELS SSOOOO GRRRRRREEEEAAAAAATTTT! MAY U HAVE A BLESSED DAY & A GOD-FUL FUTURE! WE SHOULD TOTALLY MEET SOMETIME TO WRITE! AMEN HALLELUJAH GOD BLESS ALL I LOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE YYYYYYYYYYYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!! *winks*
Thank you Kelcie! I know God does have great things for you this week! Thanks for the encouragement, and God bless as you keep giving HIM your talents and dreams!
YESSS! WE SHOULD TOTALLY GIVE GOD OUR TALENTS & DREAMS! When He has them He can make THEM BETTER THAN WE IMAGINED OR ASKED FOR! In the end ALL THE GLORY GOES TO GOD! My Pastor Preached that ALL GOD’S CHILDREN ARE WINNERS JUST BECAUSE U LOST ONCE DOESNT MEAN U R DENIED VICTORY! Every LOST MEANS A BIGGER VICTORY IN STORE! WHEN U WIN AT SOMETHING U PREVIOUSLY FAILED AT IT FEELS SO MUCH BETTER!!!!😆😆😆 SO KEEP GOING SIERRA👍🙏👊✊🙌👏👆🏃ALL GODS CHILDREN ARE WINNERS I DECREE&DECLAREINJESUSNAME THAT ALL OF GODS CHILDREN R WINNERS WE WILL WIN THE RACE TOGETHER FOR GOD IS WITH US “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME!! LET’S GET OUT THERE We R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS WE R WINNERS
woah, just thank you.
Wow! Just what I was thinking: my life isn’t exciting at all. Thanks for reminding us that God is still in the process of writing our life stories!
I loved the quotes and message your putting out there. Its good to think that while I’m writing my own fantasy’s, God’s writing my life’s story! Everyones an author… the main character of their own book!
Thanks Trinity! Yup, it’s a pretty mind-blowing thought huh? Like Shakespeare said “we are actors on the stage of the world” (or something like that 🙂
I think it was “… the stage of life,” but I could be wrong.
Yeah, I think you’re right…:)
Giving God control is tough, but when we do, life is so much better. A friend of mine explained it like this: We are a child, playing with a teddy bear. And God is asking us to give it up. We don’t want to. But what we don’t know is, God has an even bigger teddy bear behind his back, and He will let us have it if we give up control, our ‘teddy bear’. Thank you for the post and God bless!
I haven’t read the book and I didn’t want to write a comment but these lines hit me hard: “But why, why would God invite us to live a better story and then at times seemingly limit us by our circumstances? I believe it is because when we are overwhelmed by our helplessness to alter situations, to play with the cards we are dealt, it is then that God can step in and work most powerfully.” I am currently on a one-day fast just because it seems I can no longer hear the Lord and I’m getting tired of facing uncertainty after uncertainty. Opened Alex and Brett Harris’ FB page, saw this and clicked it open. Just wanted to tell you, Sierra, that God has spoken and ministered to me through this article today, just when I badly needed Him to do so. Thanks.