Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is It Just Me or is There a Rough Draft in Here?

I am only a co-writer in the story of my life. God is the true Author. He's the Editor-in-Chief. He writes the events, characters, the timing of things, and the circumstances of my daily environment. He schedules appointments and disappointments. I can only write in response to what He writes. My feelings. My faith. My lack of either. He sets the stage. He writes in advance. He knows what's in chapter 24 while I'm still in chapter 12. I walk onto today's stage without script or preparation. My life-writing is impromptu. My responses reveal who I truly am. But I know I'm not writing alone. He has a plan and His plan is good. So, I take what He writes and hope that I gain wisdom, but so often I lose character. I do respond with wisdom...sometimes (occasionally maybe? Okay, so it's more like occasionally-bordering-on-rarely). Most of the time I react emotionally and regret what I write with my words or my actions. Yet even then, God gives me opportunity to rewrite. What feels like permanent red ink boiling out of me in one instant is touched by His eraser of forgiveness the next. He allows for rough drafts. His Spirit lends gentle correction to my outbursts. He calms my trembling hand. He soothes my broken heart. I'm given a second chance to right what's wrong with what I've written. An example from a past manuscript of my life is in order. Please understand -- I'm not proud of some of the things I've written into my life. I usually don't let people see the rough drafts. But I feel compelled to revisit an important chapter. Perhaps you have a chapter comparable to mine. This particular chapter began May 14, 1993. It was a day that I had scheduled for celebration, but it took an unpredictable bounce into a night filled with tears. I was an inexperienced life-writer. I wrote as if life bounced like a basketball. The bounce of a basketball is predictable. You learn the feel of it and know where it's going to be when it bounces back up. Your fingertips can anticipate a basketball so well that your eyes never have to look down. The bounce is in the script. Everything goes according to script. Like I said...I was inexperienced. I looked forward to May 14, 1993. I worked hard for years to get to May 14, 1993. When it finally came, the joy, exhilaration, and adrenalin I felt holding that piece of paper that certified a 92-hour Master's degree is hard to describe. My family and church family were in the audience standing and applauding when my name was called...just like I had written into the script. We celebrated with a graduation party, gifts, and cake. In the script. All was right with the world. The basketball of life was bouncing according to my anticipated desires. Somewhere between the last bite of cake and bedtime, the basketball turned into a football. My life took a very unpredictable bounce. I learned that night that the only thing predictable about life is that it is predictably unpredictable. Life bounces like a football. Ever tried dribbling a football? Try it. You'll understand. Late that night, after the kids were in bed, my mom and dad said they had something to tell us. Mom was in a rocking chair. She was rocking that chair hard. She licked her lips a couple of times as she struggled for words. Something inside me knew I wasn't prepared for what she was about to say. I knew everything I had written had been said. I didn't write what was about to be said. Her cancer was back. This time, it was bone cancer. This time, short of God's powerful, yet fully capable intervention, it would take her life. Suddenly, all that was right with the world vanished into the shadows. My hand hung in the air waiting for the basketball to bounce back up. It never did. A year later, Mom finished her fight, completed her race, and received her crown. I pretended I was still dribbling a basketball. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know how to grieve. I should have put the pen down and stopped writing. It wasn't a fairy tale. It was real. It hurt. Unresolved hurt leads to anger. I tried to resolve it with my resolve. Just keep dribbling. Just keep dribbling. Maybe no one will notice there's no ball there. Maybe if I just kept dribbling, the ball would find its way back. It didn't. Anger has many expressions. Internally, I began to write in invisible ink. Under the surface. A new me. An ugly me. Not for publication. The roughest of rough drafts. Subconsciously, I was angry at the Author. Deep inside me, I fired the Editor-in-Chief and took over all the publication duties of my life. The anger got ugly. Jesus once said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." He's right. But in that chapter of my life, you could add one word to the end of His sentence and it would still be true: "Apart from Me, you can do nothing GOOD." I did nothing good. I tried. I took tools too big for my hands into my hands and tried to build my own kingdom. How silly. I'm not an ancient Chinese, but I came up with a proverb: "He who cannot build bird house has no business building a kingdom." It didn't stand. It fell. So did I. Through a process outlined below, I quit playing editor-in-chief of my life and humbly welcomed the authentic Editor-in-Chief back into His rightful place in my life. Life still bounces like a football. I can't predict it. But wow --- you ought to see God dribble a football! It's no problem for Him. How to Rewrite Life - A Process Learned the Hard Way by Perry Crisp: 1. Be Ready. It will happen to you. The predictability of the unpredictable in your life is my prediction. Go ahead and accept it. Count on it. Be ready for anything. Make sure you have more than a fair-weather faith while the weather is still fair. 2. Be Confident: (a) in the power of prayer (Do you realize that Jesus prayed? Jesus would not have prayed if prayer were powerless), and (b) in the presence of friends. Friends may not always understand. In fact, they may even seem clumsy, insensitive, and unthinking at times. But the truth is, they care -- else they wouldn't be there. 3. Be Real. Life isn't a fairy tale. It doesn't go according to our script. While you grapple with accepting that, also give yourself permission to be real with God about your feelings, your hurt, your loss, and your anger. He's a big God. He can handle it. 4. Be Right. With God. The temptation when life takes an unpredictable, unfair, and painful bounce is to let go of God and give up on your faith. I've been there. That path only leads to a dead end of misery. Resist bitterness. You must decide: Do I want to be bitter or get better? It's an either/or choice. Accept what can't be changed. Focus on what's left, not what's lost. Hang on. Cling tighter. Cry louder. Lean harder. Surrender more. His anchor holds through the fiercest storm. 5. Be Renewed. You can't force or fake this part. It's a work of God's grace. Renewal comes through surrender. "God, take what's left. Take what I've made a mess of. It's all in Your hands. I'm in Your hands. I thought I had control. That was just an illusion. I have no control. You have it should be. Renew Your Spirit in me." 6. Bless Others. I know it sounds crazy. But God has wired the universe so that we get better by reaching out to meet the needs of others in spite of our own neediness. Do you need to feel loved? Love someone. Do you need hope? Extend hope to another. Do you need a second chance? Give someone else a second chance. Trust me. It works. "Father, here is a crumpled, worn, tear-stained rough draft. I submit it to You in hopes that You will use it today to speak to my fellow struggling life-writers." Amen... Perry Crisp