In his book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”, Donald Miller shares about people: “Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.”
When I read that book several years ago, it propelled me into a posture of “yes”. I don’t mean the “yes” that leads to overcommitment, but rather the “yes” that leads to the uncomfortable. This discomfort was embraced with my husband nearly eight years ago–but to understand how we got to that point, let me provide some context.
I have had the blessing of knowing Jesus loves me my entire life. Seeds were being firmly planted when I learned at a very young age that my brother and I were adopted. My parents displayed an unconditional love for us, for our family, and for each other that I do not take for granted. But amidst a comfortable upbringing and loving family, like all families (yes, I emphasize “all” because all families have challenges in their stories) we were not without some steep challenges. Through it all, God was clearly present. Looking back, I see evidence of how He relentlessly pursued our family, and me personally, over the years.
My walk with God and a growing relationship with Him continued through to my 20’s and into my 30’s. However, it wasn’t until my mid-30’s before I knew what it looked like to surrender my own agendas in order to gain freedom in God’s plan for my life. Up to that point, I truly felt God’s presence in my life. He blessed me with a loving husband, two wonderful boys, and an awesome community with whom we did life and served.
I’d love to share with you that from that point on, my identity was 100% in Jesus and my growth catapulted…but as with all of us, God’s work is never done in us. I was learning day-by-day that my life was more than my plans. He worked with me through many personal struggles in order to get me to taste the freedom He had for my life, and for our family.
As my husband Matt and I were maintaining successful career tracks, and “living the dream” so-to-speak, knowing what our priorities should be and living that out were two entities we simply could not bridge. After a period of living in this tension, we knew needed a reset. And that reset came in the form of a question. What if we lived in a posture of submission and saying “yes” to God first? What might that look like?
At that time, my husband hit his own pivotal point while he was reading “Unstuck” by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross. They based their book on a study of the lives of 80,000 Christians, separating those who were “growing” in their faith and those who were “stuck.” The single major factor that differentiated the two groups was how often the participants were in the word of God—not just reading it, but reading, reflecting, and responding. Those who were doing this four or more times per week were growing in their relationship with God, while those who were doing this zero to three times per week were all on par with people not reading scripture at all. Matt was so convicted by the stats, that he decided to do what the book told him to do to get “unstuck,” spending more than four times per week with God and in His word. That ultimately turned his posture before God of simply, “Yes. Now what’s the question?” each day. Matt looks back and recognizes that this was a major turning point towards God – to seek Him constantly (But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33). He frequently shares, “…everything began to follow after that.” Meaning, his priorities, his desires, and his actions changed. He began to see life and purpose differently, with a God-lens.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
– Proverbs 19: 20-21
And so we made a shift.
We each left our corporate careers of nearly 20 years and I headed to work for our sons’ school and Matt for our church. Our story was drastically altered by those two decisions. It was a true step of faith in leaving that which was “comfortable” behind to see what God might have for us. We were basically saying “yes” to whatever God presented to us and then letting Him do the work in us (Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? – Matthew 6:25). Some yeses were easy, but many were hard. And we felt these yeses one-by-one altering the trajectory of our family. It felt good, hard, and freeing all at once.
With the shifts we were making in our lives, came the opportunity to tell others about it – the good, the bad, and the ugly. The world was telling us we were crazy to leave our careers and salaries behind. The world was telling us that this was not sustainable for the long haul. The world was even telling us we were taking a step back and maybe we should say “no”. The world will always try to pull us into a different story.
But God wants our yeses and He wants us to be in His story.
I recently read that the quickest way to change someone is to change the story they’re telling themselves, or letting the world tell them. This is why we need to know God’s story and say yes to entering into it. Everybody has a worldview. If we are going to live wisely and well, we need to understand the REAL story, and the only way to do that is to see the world the way that God sees it. We are all already a part of it. There are some universal truths about each of us that actually knit us all together into His story:
- God deeply loves us as His own children. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14; God knows how many hairs you have on your head. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many small birds. – Luke 2:7
- He desires a relationship with us. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:20
- He goes before each of us. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 3:8
- He walks alongside of us and will go to battle for us in times of trouble. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. – Deuteronomy 20:4
- He has prepared an eternal place for us. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. There is an eternal place He has prepared for each one of us who receives Him. How comforting to know that is a part of our future story, regardless of circumstances now.
So be encouraged! His word is living proof that we are ALL a part of His epic story. Regardless of our stories here on earth, regardless of where we are in our walks, our yeses, our failures, or our successes, there is a beautiful eternal story He’s written each one of us in to. And the more we embrace the yeses with courage to face doubt, fears, or discomfort, the more of Him we will experience along the way.
Through our decisions to step into obedience and even discomfort, our family has experienced contentment (even amidst chaos) that comes when you live life in the Spirit and trust that His plans are better than ours (that’s where the yeses come in). And doing so surrounded by a community of believers who want that for you – that’s the jackpot.
Our story is far from over, and we are each a work in progress. We hit fruitful seasons, dry seasons, and “why me” seasons. But we always strive to stay rooted in His word, which is the living story we’re a part of. We don’t do it perfectly. Sometimes it’s really easy. Sometimes it’s so hard. But all of the time, it’s most comforting to point back to His truth that is foundation of the epic story in which we all live!
Lord, I thank you so much that you have chosen us to be a part of your story. I am sorry for the times that I take for granted our day-to-day life and happenings, or when I face circumstances with fear and doubt. Please refine me through those times, and help our family to seize the opportunities for the yeses, and to always be living on purpose for You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.