Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… Ephesians 3:20
I made a trip to Spokane yesterday with my husband. On course to the stops on my errand list we passed by a Barnes and Noble bookstore, eliciting a frantic “Stop!” that came as no surprise to my husband who was already re-routing to ‘Rabbit Trail Ave’.
To say that I love books is to say that Romeo loved Juliet; a slight understatement of the obsessive nature of the affection. Everything about books appeals to me: that aromatic amalgamation of paper, ink and binding glue that permeates every book store, the varying sizes and textures of hard covers, embossing and gilded page edges. A bookstore is a veritable Eden of subject matter condensed into creative titles splashed across covers in an endless array of exquisite fonts.
In walking through the door of a bookstore it is a foregone conclusion, as my husband can attest, that we will exit with a bag full of books to be added to already sagging bookshelves, many of which I will likely never find the time to read.
In my defense, I am not alone in my passion for a good book. Forbes reported $110 million in hardcover books sold in August of 2013 alone. From the ancient tales of Gilgamesh and Beowulf to current bestsellers, the human story has been told and re-told. Through the ages, whether as writer or reader, we have been drawn toward the narrative by a common gravity.
Why does a story draw us in so? I believe it is because of the innate awareness that each of us is living out our own narrative. We sense that we are the main character in an unfolding story. Acknowledging that I am the main character in the story of my own life compels me to ask, If my life is a narrative, who is writing it? Who is the author of my life story? Logic tells me there are only three possibilities:
I Alone Hold the Pen ― probably the most appealing to my sense of autonomy is the notion that I am the author of my own narrative. I exercise free will and am the designer of my own destiny, the “captain of my soul”. It doesn’t take a genius, however, to see that much of our story is beyond our control. Our lineage, birth place, even our DNA is outside of the influence of our will. The most obvious recognition that we are not in control occurs when something bad or disappointing happens, in which case we tend to question or even blame God.
God Holds the Pen ― this possibility implies that God has written the story while I am merely a character living out the role I was assigned. My actions do not fundamentally influence the story line. Some see it that way, and though this option certainly acknowledges the Sovereign nature of God, it seems to me inconsistent with theology presented in the whole of scripture; and effectively exonerates man from any responsibility for his own life.
My Story is the Dynamic Product of My Relationship with God ― In this possibility, I participate in writing my own story, not because I truly control anything, but because God chose to allow me to share the pen when He granted me free will. My influence is limited by design, and only extends to the boundaries established by God. I did not begin my story, nor do I have the power to alter the holy and eternal laws established by God, the eternal King and ruler of all.
The beginning of my story was penned by God and began long before my birth, before my conception. It began in the mind of God even before the creation of the world. The ending of my story will be determined by a single choice that I am required to make; whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ. The decisions I make in between directly affect the story line. This is true only because God in His sovereignty chose to place that responsibility on man and to hold man accountable for his choices.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Joshua 24:15
Because I accepted Jesus as my Savior, the Holy Spirit guides my hand. I exercise choice but if I wish to please my Lord, I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. The tighter I hold the pen, the more I will stray from the narrative God desires for me. He knows me far better than I will ever know myself. He knows what trials will form my character. He knows what adventures will bring out the hero in me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I can’t possibly come up with a better story line for my life. No matter what I think or imagine… God has the best plot in mind!