Edit Your Rough Draft
The great theologian Mr. Rogers once said "There isn't a person you couldn't love if you knew their story." The compassionate optimist in me wants to high three Rog and bond over our mutual affection for button up grandpa sweaters and understanding people's behavior, but the realist who's obsessed with personal development makes want want to write a cautionary tale.
This idea of story telling isn't mine. It's not Rog's or Donald Miller's or Dr. Seuss'. Storytelling begins and ends with the greatest storyteller of all: who started the story with "in the beginning" and is going to end it with a huge, everlasting fiesta in the sky. The coolest thing is He's entrusted us to be His co-authors allows us to privilege to fill in some of the details. In this story, soaked in glorious and terrifying free-will, we find ourselves struggling and trying to make sense of what our fellow co-authors are doing, why they're doing it, and how to stay alive until the end of our section of the encyclopedia of life with as few injuries as possible.
Jesus was a major storyteller, too. He'd show up unannounced to cities and crowds would pop a squat to listen to him spew tales that he'd dumb down so that our finite minds could somewhat try to process what God, heaven and eternity would be like. Essentially a large portion of his ministry on Earth was spent as a Holy children's book writer.
A lot of people take Mr. Roger's statement in a far to serious tone in the way that they live their lives. They justify toxic behavior because of people's bad home life, poor upbringing or unhealthy relationships that weren't their choice and continue to condone poor life choices. I'm a passionate advocate of loving people where they're at, but all the while pushing them forward to all they can become. If we're not pushing one another out of our ruts, we're not actually loving one another.
I can't say that I necessarily would have chosen the story that I was given for a while in my life, but I learned early on that my story was just that: mine. If I wanted it to end a certain way, I knew I had to grab the pen and a jumbo bottle of white out from costco and write a story that I'd be proud of for myself. I want to write a story that leaves the world changed, and not because I'm a writer or because I think I'm capable of accomplishing something that crazy. I want to write a story which shakes people in their souls, forces them to think about the unshakable truth of a God who loves them, and liberates them into grace and freedom. I want to write a story which inspires others to write a better story, to impact their world on a large scale, and love others with intensity and vulnerability which only can be described as crazy. Imagine a world where we were all living like that. Woah.
I'm a first class rookie at this and I have eraser shavings on my lap at all times. If you talk to any creative professional they'll never feel completely happy with a piece of work. Momentarily, sure, but eventually they're going to look back and remember something else they could have done to make it even more beautiful.
The same is true for writing life stories. We can't go back and undo our chapters, but we can re-work our stories so they have an impactful ending. The way I do this in my professional writing is by looking back on past pieces and making rules to avoid habits that will keep my writing stale. Admittedly, I'm 23, white and privileged, but I've also lived in many countries and known people from all walks of life. Their stories are INSPIRING and they have taught me how to write my story in a way that helps others and points people to Jesus. The following are the top choices to make/avoid to write a great life story:
Feelings are just emotions that you're allowing to control you. Emotions are real, but they're not permanent. The worst choices in the world are based on feelings. Look at the facts, look at your goals, look at your strengths, look at your resources, and look to your community. Base your decisions off of wisdom, not knee jerk reactions to life's circumstances.
2. Make a damn choice.
Harry Potter is my favorite series of books because of the unique and complex plot that each of the characters are in and how they intertwine so beautifully. However, lets imagine for a minute that Harry is a little indecisive punk. One minute he's gung ho to fight Voldemort, the next he's petrified...and not from a spell. So he decides this whole "magic" thing is too much for him, so he leaves Hogwarts and has to go live with his aunt and uncle once again. Once there, he remembers how much he misses Ginny and decides to go win her back, but by then she's with Neville. Then he goes onto Cho and she's a hot mess because of Cedric's death still and Hogwarts needs to get a better counseling system set up, so that's clearly not an option. Harry then goes into a slump because he's given up on his dreams and goals and is rejected by two dime pieces back to back. Now, Harry doesn't look like a hero. He looks like a loser, a womanizer, an asshole and he completely screwed up the plots in the other character's lives too.
Indecisiveness is primarily driven by fear. Fear we may be rejected, fear we may fail, fear we might succeed and our lives would change drastically. Obviously I'm a fan of bravery, but I'm even more a fan of decisiveness. Decisiveness and basing your decisions off of facts, not feelings, will only always take your life forward.
3. Be Vulnerable.
This is hard. And honestly it's scary as shit, but I promise you it's so worth it. It involves forgiveness, acceptance of self and others, and making a daily choice to not put walls up and keep people out. I find it one of the most profound things in life that the one thing that can hurt people and the one thing that is used to help heal people is the same: people. Life simply isn't worth living in a way that's not real, open, and vulnerable.
Let's think of it this way. Imagine a story where there's one character. He's focused on his career and material things and nothing else. He interacts with no one, he has no friends or family, and he never goes after the girl of his dreams. Who wants to read a story like that? Yet our personal story lines are similar when we refuse to deal with our baggage and put ourselves out there.
4. Let Jesus love you.
He already does, so you might as well accept it. When you accept that you're loved unconditionally in spite of all of your flaws and errors by the Creator of the world, everything else seems to fall into place. Your fears seem way smaller, your emotions are easier to control, and you have security in being vulnerable because of you know you are loved regardless of life's circumstances.
5. Think about the big stuff.
Just yesterday someone told me “life’s short, family and friends are the most important things.” I strongly disagree. Family and friends are wonderful things that need to be cherished and honored but life is short – so what happens after it? What else is out there? What do we want to accomplish in our short amount of time here? These are the questions that help us develop a coherent plot and storyline, they help our character’s quirks and personalities blend together and they signal when it’s time to phase supporting characters out.
6. Surround yourself with people who challenge you – especially when it comes to choosing your mate.
Back to that young HP. Could you imagine what a lazy POS Ron would have been had he not had Hermione? He was scared of everything, not amped to work on himself, and didn’t apply himself to school. However once surrounded with the right people, and mate, who made decisions in positive directions he was able to fully live out all that he was created for, exemplifying bravery and masculinity along the way.