The Long View

All of the kids except Nina. They love photo shoots.

I watched Wheaton Academy’s performance of Les Miserables tonight.

Amazing story, amazing performance, music, direction, and adult leadership.
It was seriously excellent, and I was moved,
But I needed some time to get past the amazing performance to the truth God wanted me to see in it.
You see, I left the show missing working with high school theatre, the incredible thrill of working with students, of helping them transmit a character and story they didn’t know they had within themselves, of getting to know students in the very personal ways theatre creates. I left missing the world I was involved in for many years.
With that longing still in my chest, I came home to my 11-year-old daughter baking shortbread–while listening to the music of Les Mis. Jane was in the kitchen, too, singing along. Then Nina came down. They all saw the show last week and have been waiting to hear my reaction to it. Nina wanted to talk through several of the scenes. We sang songs together–not very well.
No wow factor—just my life.
And it struck me that my longing for something I no longer have—though not wrong—is a desire for a different story than the one God has put me in right now. I, like most people I know, am drawn to redemptive stories, stories that have purpose and sacrifice and change and love. The problem is that, though I’m pretty good at recognizing redemption in others’ life stories, I can be really bad at spotting it in my own.
So I want someone else’s. Tonight I wanted what I used to have. Yesterday I read the blog of a friend who is working in Africa marketing jewelry handmade by Ugandan women (check out her blog on my blogroll), and I wanted to be on the front lines of a social justice mission. Two days ago I learned of an Iranian pastor who is on death row for his Christian faith. Though I did NOT want HIS life right now (or that of his wife’s!), I for certain thought of his story as being more redemptive and more important than my own.
But generally, when we look at a life from outside it, and think, oh, that’s so redemptive, so purposeful, the people in it don’t see it that way; often, they are asking for escape from it (a truth clearly showed by the characters in Les Mis).
It’s good that we recognize redemption in others’ stories—we should use that recognition to encourage them and pray for them—but we also have to START seeing redemption in our OWN stories.
We have to start seeing it in the crushing, painful times.
In the grind-it-out, nitty-gritty times.
In the waiting, I’m-not-going-anywhere times.
In the doubting, wandering, holding-on-by-a-thread times.
If ANY of our stories could be condensed down to the 2½-hour-movie-version, we would be able to see redemption in it—at least our OWN redemption. But life doesn’t come with a soundtrack that lets us know when big moments are coming—or that this IS a big moment, a moment full of grand and glorious purpose. So we don’t see the BIG story.
We need the long view, the big view. God tells us His view of time is entirely different from our own. Our days are but moments to him. Our lives like breaths. This does not at all mean that our lives don’t matter to Him (for we know His thoughts toward us are precious and numerous, like grains of sand on the seashore; see Psalm 139:17-18); no, it tells us that He HAS the long view, the big redemptive view of how all our lives web together into the biggest story of all.
All these things in my life that I am tempted to think DON’T have real meaning—they DO. They are part of that biggest story. They may be behind-the-scenes stuff, but they matter. My nitty-gritty is affecting the stories of Dave, Em, Jake, Maddie, Patrick, Nina, Jane—and all the others they bring home for dinner, for the night, for the weekend. My nitty-gritty is being used to change ME.
MY story is a story of redemption.
So is yours.
We need to ask for the long view
And for the grace to persevere when we don’t see it.
Scripture passages:

Psalm 90:4 (The entire psalm is one of lament, but even in his sorrow he looks to the Lord for the “long view” {verses 16 and 17})

2 Peter 3:8-9 (and from there to the end of the chapter—lots of long-view “stuff”)