Last Sunday, Susan Greener shared her story with us — a story that includes pain and grace, suffering and redemption, meaning found and questions that remain. One of Susan’s comments reflected something that is true for all of us: she remarked that her story is unfinished. I’ve heard echoes of this from others whom I’ve asked to share in COR@9. Sometimes, a person feels there are some key loose ends that need to be wrapped up before he or she is ready to share. Other times, I hear something like this: “I don’t think I can share my story — the stories I’ve heard others tell seemed so wrapped up and tidy, while mine is so messy.” In other words, my story doesn’t fit with the narratives I’ve heard from others.
It’s true that there are times and seasons in our lives during which we don’t have enough clarity about our stories, or threads of our story, to be able to reflect meaningfully upon them to ourselves or to others. Sometimes there is pain in our stories that is too overwhelming to grapple with right now (though important to process and share eventually). Sometimes we haven’t reached a point of emotional and spiritual maturity to be able to share our stories in a humble and clear-sighted way. Whatever the reason, it’s ok to say, “I’m just not ready to share yet, or at least not about that.”
But it’s also true that when we tell our stories, we all speak from a vantage point in medias res — in the middle of things. We’re never at the end of our stories this side of eternity. And we will never have full clarity about the meaning of the things we’ve lived and experienced and suffered until we see Jesus face to face. We all are living unfinished stories, and that is actually a tremendous gift, because it means God’s work in us isn’t done. And it means we still have chance after chance to grow, to receive His grace, to follow up unfinished threads, to find the clarity and meaning and purpose for which we are longing, and to begin to co-write our stories and our story together differently.
So when you hear someone’s story, don’t be anxious if your story feels too messy or incoherent by comparison. Remember that the other person is still an unfinished product, and that at different points in their life they would have told their story differently. And remember that you, too, are living “in the middle of things.” Give thanks for God’s work in them, offer reflection and insight about what you see regarding God’s ongoing work in their lives, and be encouraged that the same God working in them is at work weaving your story in with His Story. He will complete His good work in you as you respond to His grace in your life.