Yesterday, I had the joy of sharing with you the direction my book has taken and the publisher's delight with the new turn. Before that post, but in particular after it, I have received a number of emails asking me to detail how I managed to score a book contract while both being very young and also relatively unknown. Today, I have been invited by the sensational team at Prodigal to share what I think it means to live a good story. Considering I view the blessing of the book contract to be essential to my good story, I'll use it as my example.
Perhaps I'll accomplish communicating what it takes to live a good story, but I confess I'm also leaning on others in this series to provide practical and noble ways in which such a life is lived. What I can offer you is perhaps so rudimentary that it can seem trite, but it is the most honest explanation I have.
I haven't always lived a good story, but I am right now, because I stopped trying to live a good story.
Or, at least, I adjusted my presumptions as to what made a good story.
What does this have to do with the book? Everything. See, I spent my entire life knowing I was going to be a writer. I announced this, often, to every person I encountered. I wrote a few novels before I graduated high school--don't worry, they're crap and have mostly been lost to us--and fully intended to be published within a few years of college, if not before. The fame and success of having a book became my motivation. I believed that to live my good story, to land that guest spot on Oprah to talk about my ingenious work, I needed not only a book contract but the kind of notoriety that only about .02% of authors ever achieve. I had based what constituted my good story completely in results, not in a life.
Then Oprah went off the air. Also, my writing is good but it's not that good.
At the same time, I was acting similarly toward God. I viewed ministry as a numbers game, in which success was determined by how many people I had a direct hand in converting. If I wasn't an active, intentional soldier for Christ, I was in the wrong. My waking hours were best spent pushing the message of Jesus. I was kind about it, I was charismatic, but I was motivated by tangible results. Proof, honestly, that I was Christian enough.
But nearly three years ago the ministry I was a part of fell into disarray. I was left empty and wounded and gave up writing altogether because the dream behind it, as all the other dreams, had been lost.
That's when, slowly, very slowly, I started listening to God again.
Jesus tells us, "'It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
What did I do to live a good story? I started reading my Bible more and talking about it less. I pulled what I can try to describe as an unselfish and non-indulgent version of Eat, Pray, Love. I bought countless books on prayer and saint lives, attended churches all over the city of every denomination, had coffee with people who saw our God differently than I did, and started believing that the ordinary moments in and of themselves were extraordinary.
I prayed one simple prayer for months and months: Lord, keep me safe; keep me humble; keep me in Your stillness. Teach me that it is enough.
I gave up on the book contracts and the ministry models. I lived. And the writing and the ministry just kind of came along for the ride.
I cooked more with people I love, which opened conversations about God I didn't expect to have in the informality of my kitchen; I laughed more; I started to paint; I prayed in new ways; I danced when no one was watching; I never missed a chance to be at church even when I didn't feel like it; and I learned, most importantly, to rend back to God any and every day. I did this by marking it with Scripture. Being rooted in those words. Learning to hear Him in people's faces, in the sun striking a copper basin, in the lull between rain and calm.
What do I have to say to you about living a good story? How do I make sense here?
Perhaps I can call it the quiet life of maybe. See, I think it's found in the possibility that yes, you might be called to lead thousands to Christ, maybe. It's found in the possibility that yes, you might be a famous Christian author, maybe.
But maybe not.
Maybe all you'll ever have is this, right now. Because once you think that way, you'll get used to it, you'll love it, and then you'll have an email in your inbox from a publishing house that wants to talk to you. You don't quite understand it, you don't think you deserve it--but that's the sign of the good story. Good stories come from our realization that we exist and subsist only in the will and beauty of God, we live by His word, we become humbled enough to be handed the surprising gifts and to use them well.
But maybe not. Maybe you won't get that email. There's a lot of trusting in the Holy Spirit in this kind of living. That's a part of it too. All that maybe every single day.
Those bridges are crossed when we come to them. Until then, there's all this great, beautiful ordinary living that must be done. There's the quiet life of maybe to be lived. And I tell you, it finds you, one day, when you're sitting across from someone and you suddenly see God differently because of the good word that they have just shared with you, it finds you that this quiet life isn't so bad.
Indeed, everything is being made beautiful in its time. We wait on the Lord, our souls wait, because a quiet life of maybe can be hid completely in Christ.
For along this quiet road you shall find more beauty than you could have dreamed. And what makes a better story than that?