Photo Source: WagsomeDog
I’m currently reading a book by Donald Miller called “A million miles in a thousand years.” The premise of the book is essentially that our lives are a story and it’s up to us to write an epic story. The book has really made me think about our work here in South Africa.
Donald writes, “Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”
Our coming to South Africa was a great story. Within a year of our pastors asking us if we’d like to return, our church rallied behind us in support, a ton of money was raised, we bought our plane tickets, sold our home, and moved around the world. It was a whirlwind… an avalanche… a tornado of activity, vision, dreams, and plans.
It all sounded like such a good idea. But then we arrived in South Africa and our plans didn’t work out like we had planned. The vision, and dreams, and plans didn’t happen like we had expected. Such is life, and so we changed our plans, and moved forward with a new vision.
But here’s the thing about new plans and new visions, they stretch you, and force you to grow. I knew I was suitable for the old plan, because I came up with it. I had designed the plan with my gifts and talents and previous missions experience in mind. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t want me on that path. Maybe he wants me on a path that forces me to rely on him. Seems like I remember reading something about, “in my weakness, He is made strong.” I don’t like my weaknesses; they make me uncomfortable.
So here I am with a new vision and a new plan, and it turns out that I don’t really have the gifts and talents to pull it off. Maybe God could better use someone with another skill set.
I want to live a great story, but it’s a lot of work, there’s resistance, and struggles, and uncertainty. Donald Miller writes, every person “faces resistance when trying to create something good. Resistance, a kind of feeling that comes against you when you point toward a distant horizon, is a sure sign that you are supposed to do the thing in the first place. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be.”
I could convince myself that I’m not the right person for the job. I could make excuses because I don’t have the right skills for what needs to be done. Donald Miller writes, “I used to believe charming people were charming because they were charming, or confident people were confident because they were confident. But all this is, of course, circular. The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories.”
The hard work is worth it, because in the end, the story is not really about me. Donald Miller quotes Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor. “He said to me, I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that it was arrogant of me to believe any differently. And he told me the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.”
The story is really about God’s love for South Africa’s children. I simply get the honor of writing the story for my little group of children in the town of Phokeng.