narrator, not author
I finally have a reason to start blogging. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (which, by the way, I read on my honeymoon), and others, provided my motivation when he created a contest. Some contests give you a lifetime supply of something useless. The winner of Miller’s contest is rewarded with a very non-useless free trip to Portland and a free registration for his conference on living a better story. You can check out the details in this video:
I’ve never been to Portland. I’ve never even been to the Northwestern United States. I would like to live a better story. I would like to meet people who want to live a better story because most good stories are found in community. Actually, I’d like to live the story I was intended to live instead of the one I often make up on my own.
That thought brings me to the title of this post. It can be helpful to think of life in this way. When I take over as the author of my life, my “writing and acting skills” demonstrate my inadequacies. I do my best to keep God as the author. Not just any god, but Jesus Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. The earth-shaking reality is that the Author of my life wants me to be the narrator of His story, which is being told through my life. I’m sure that is as clear as mud. Let me briefly tell you some of my story and where I think it might be headed, and hopefully, the narrator-not-author idea will become clear. And maybe I’ll get a chance to learn how to narrate my story better by making a trip to Portland.
My very first word was “amen.” I’ve been around churches since I started breathing. In many ways, “church” is the setting of my story. Early in my college career at Taylor University in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana (actually, it’s called Upland, IN), I remember driving home and telling God it would be a much better lifestyle to make money in the business world than go into ministry. I clearly remember Him telling me He’d take care of my lifestyle if I would choose the story He had in mind. I made up my mind in that moment God wanted me to work for a local church. That was nearly eight years ago, and I still don’t have a full-time job working in a local church.
Over the last nine years, I’ve been quite nomadic and itinerant. The longest I’ve lived in one place consistently was 16 months. I’ve had eight church internships spanning from Chicago to Atlanta–the shortest one just three weeks and the longest one a whole 7 months. This is not what I had in mind when I told God I would be willing to work for a church.
But, I’m learning this makes for a better story. I often compare these last few years with Elijah’s trek through the desert in 1 Kings 17. Elijah could not have been more emotionally ready to take on the evil King of Israel, but God sent him into the desert instead of into battle. After he learned the lessons God wanted him to learn in the desert, he went up to Mt. Carmel and God used him to embarrass and defeat hundreds of prophets and a dead god.
This year, God put more changes in my life than I could have imagined was possible. I married a woman who is totally out of my league. We moved to very liberal Bloomington, IN where I worked with a conservative evangelical megachurch, spending most of my time at the non-profit coffeehouse the church started on Indiana University’s campus. I finished a master’s degree. Candace finished her bachelor’s degree, and she accepted a job with an accounting firm in Charlotte, NC. We moved to Charlotte with the hope of finding a church that would let me work with their twentysomethings–the segment of the population most churches flounder to reach. I met with multiple churches and pastors. They all had the same story: “We’re not hiring…especially in that area.” So, I began to wonder if I was headed back to the desert. More internships? More itinerant positions? Nope.
I found out just yesterday I will not be working for a local church. I will begin working with a non-profit organization called CharlotteONE that currently partners with 40 local churches to do something significant in the lives of young professionals in Charlotte. So, it just happened that the city Candace got a job in is also a haven for young people in their twenties who are just starting their careers. I am now responsible for maintaining, developing, and creating new partnerships with churches around Charlotte and connecting the twentysomethings with those churches. And I couldn’t be more pumped.
As I reflect on the story I’ve been narrating for the last 27 years, it occurred to me there is no chance I could have written a story like this. Each new location and each new internship gave me a chance to learn a lesson I will need in this new role. Each relationship formed at those places and in those roles will be the foundation of my support. For the last 22 fall seasons, I worked on educational experiences; now, I will finally be cashing in those experiences. I’ve been an intern for multiple churches, and now I will work with multiple churches to build Kingdom partnerships throughout one city. I’ve seen churches struggle to understand their young adults, and I’ve seen young adults struggle to understand churches. And God has given me a passion and a holy discontent to get involved with both.
Perhaps the most intimidating obstacle is something I am completely unfamiliar with–raising my own support. Since discovering this job was a possibility a few weeks ago, my attitude toward this conflict is changing. Although it will be difficult to ask my friends and family to fund my entire ministry costs, I am trusting the Author of the story. Raising my own support will mean the organization’s funds can bring in more speakers (Bob Goff, perhaps?), focus more energy on building a unified movement of churches, develop a stronger presence in Charlotte’s downtown, and connect more skeptical young adults with compassionate faith communities. I also need to persuade the “City of Churches” to crumble denominational barriers and join a united movement in their city to reach a younger, growing, and better-looking (only kidding, Mom and Dad) population in Charlotte.
Hopefully, this saga sums up this simple idea: He authors. I narrate. The previous chapters make me eager to narrate the next chapters in a way that does His story of my life justice.