I’ve had to learn a lot of things in life the hard way. And by “learn the hard way,” I basically mean “fail miserably at them over and over again.”
As an overly eager and ambitious youngster in elementary school, I learned that I would never make it big in the world of professional sports as a famous athlete. This probably had something to do with the fact that I practically died of heat exhaustion during every one of my little league soccer practice sessions because I was morbidly obese and couldn’t run very fast. Also, my growing resentment over my little brother’s team being served snacks and soda — while my drill sergeant of a coach was ordering us to do 50 more pushups — didn’t help my attitude much either.
In early high school, I learned that my future career as a comic book artist wasn’t exactly going to pan out the way that I had hoped. Oh well. Who really wants to make a living drawing Batman and Spiderman for the rest of their life anyway, right? It’s not like superhero franchises are insanely popular cash cows these days or anything.
In college, I quickly discovered that filmography, videography and dramatic studio productions weren’t really my forte either. I tended to excel in and gravitate more towards digital media design, marketing, public relations, social media management, web graphical creation, writing and the like. But, if you were to hand me a shoulder-mounted video camera, a lighting kit and a pair of boom mics and tell me to “make a story,” I wouldn’t have a clue what to do. It’s only by the grace of God (and the mercy of my professors) that I even survived those handful of required TV, radio and film production courses.
And, all throughout my young adult life and in recent months, I’ve realized that my “man card” is essentially nonexistent in dozens of categories like heavy furniture lifting, intensive lawn care and outdoor survival methods. (Sorry, dad.) If there’s ever some sort of zombie apocalypse or end-of-the-world Armageddon, I won’t be the guy planting, harvesting and managing the family vegetable garden.
Even now, at the ripe old age of 31, I’m still learning things “the hard way” on this journey called life — a life that, in many ways, I never would have predicted. It’s a life that has been broken and marred by relational adversities, lost friendships, medical hardships and prolonged seasons of wondering, wandering and questioning. Honestly, if I had seen any of this coming, I probably would’ve done everything in my power to avoid it. Being re-diagnosed with Partial-Complex Idiopathic Epileptic seizures in my mid-twenties (after not having them since I was an infant), subsequently being placed on two driving restrictions (the latter of which is still current), weathering five and a half months of not eating solid food and simultaneously enduring several medication side effects haven’t been the most pleasant experiences in the world.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there right now. You’re drowning in a life that you don’t want. A life you don’t understand. A life that you would do anything to change. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s your physical health.
You find yourself daydreaming — at home, in class, at work, at church — about how things could be better, grander, more fulfilling, more successful, more beautiful, more peaceful.
But, the joyful and unshakeable reality is that our lives — and the progress we want to make in our lives — are not defined or even restricted by the brokenness of our circumstances or the brokenness of who we are. In fact, the brokenness itself is actually a glorious and wondrous part of our circumstances because God is the Author of our lives and He is incapable of making mistakes. How often we forget that He is the Divine Poet, penning every line as the script unfolds before our very eyes. With every stanza, with every unique verse and every perfectly orchestrated sequences of events, He is inviting us to take part in an epic adventure where He is in control of the final chapter and the eternal outcome.
Thus, the broken pieces and all of the ugly messes are ok because they’re just another part of the story, leading to a more spectacular and more breathtaking conclusion than we could ever imagine or could ever write for ourselves.
That’s difficult to swallow sometimes, though. We don’t like to accept the notion that God intentionally and knowingly allows suffering and pain to take place, not just on the earth in general, but especially in our personal lives as Christ-followers. It means we have to exercise great amounts of faith and trust. Regardless, we can do our best to take comfort in the truth that even as we encounter disappointment, trials and misery, everything is still happening within the framework of His sovereign plan as He uses us to glorify Himself and to encourage those around us.
Moreover, He promises that He will always be with us in the midst of life’s deepest hardships so that we don’t ever have to endure it alone, despite that we may “feel” alone.
So, cling to the brokenness of your story. Embrace the fragmented, shattered pieces of your life. The things that don’t seem to make sense. The things that hurt. The things that scare you. The things that send you to the floor every night in tears.
Because it’s in the brokenness where you’ll find God at work. It’s where your relationship with Him — your faith, joy and hope — will thrive, mature and flourish.
It your story.
He’s writing every moment of it.
And the story isn’t over yet.