If you were to visit me at home (which, of course, you are not allowed to do these days), you would find stacks of books at various places all around my house. I have a stack of books on the dining room table, a stack next to my bed, a stack upstairs at my desk, and a few other stacks in odd places. I think I'm reading about a dozen books right now, all at the same time. And the reason those books are scattered in so many places is because I never know when I'll need something strong and sure to grab onto. Books, these days, are my anchors. And when I need them, they had better be close.
The other night I woke up at 3:00 a.m. That isn't all that unusual for me. But I knew as soon as I woke up that I would be awake for awhile. So I reached for the closest book and began to read. The book was Sarah Bessey's Miracles and Other Reasonable Things. If only for the title, this book deserves to be read! Describing her family's journey through her father's heart surgery, Sarah Bessey said this: "We had no idea how to behave in this unfamiliar story."
That's what life feels like for me these days: an unfamiliar story. Maybe you feel that way too. Many of us, I think, are living in a world that suddenly looks and feels so different, and we're not sure exactly what to do.
I am certain that it's not even true, but I have convinced myself that I was doing fine living in "the familiar story," the way the world was a few weeks ago. But, honestly, I wasn't doing all that well with that story either. In fact, I cannot recall the last time something went exactly the way I expected it to go. So it's not just the unfamiliar story that gives me trouble; I'm not all that good at living when everything is familiar either!
An image about life that is repeated often in Scripture is the image of running a race. The Apostle Paul uses that image in 2 Timothy 4:7 and the writer of Hebrews encourages us to run well in Hebrews 12:1. And as we run, there are ups and downs, ordinary days and days filled with surprises, happy moments and devastating crises. No matter what comes, however, we keep running . . . with our eyes firmly fixed on the One we follow. Sometimes the road seems familiar and we sense that we are completely at home. At other times we feel lost and we're quite sure we've never been here before. But we keep running. We keep doing what we know to do, doing what we have been trained to do, doing what we were made to do.
But know this: even before the world changed, we weren't writing the script. Even before the world changed, we were simply doing our best to play our part while the Maker continued to do his work. And that is exactly what we are to do now.
I love the perspective of Madeleine L'Engle. She reminds me that, even though it is not my play, it is so important that I play my part . . . even when things feel painfully unfamiliar.
Someone has altered the script.
My lines have been changed.
The other actors are shifting roles.
They don't come on when they're expected to,
and they don't say the lines I've written
and I'm being upstaged.
I thought I was writing this play
with a rather nice role for myself,
small, but juicy
and some excellent lines.
But nobody gives me my cues
and the scenery has been replaced
and I don't recognize the new sets.
This isn't the script I was writing.
I don't understand this play at all.
To grow up
is to find
the small part you are playing
in this extraordinary drama
"Act III, Scene iii" by Madeleine L'Engle