I’m thinking about stories a lot these days. I’ve had copious amounts of time since I moved, and I typically spend at least half of my days getting lost in a book. Yesterday, in one sitting, I re-read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you haven’t read that book, you might want to put all else on hold till you do. It just catapults you from wanting an ordinary life to wanting to live a great story. Every time I read it I cry, and fist pump, and make declarations about how my life is going to be a fantastic story.
I’m also trying to read through the bible chronologically this year. I say trying because I’m not as much concerned with making it through the reading plan as I am in being transformed by the grand story. Some sections require a couple days to digest, some others tempt me to skip a few chapters. I just finished the story of Joseph a few days ago (and now we’re in the alarming/depressing tale of Job). It made me think about stories again. The redemption of stories. Did you know it took thirteen years from the time God showed Joseph his destiny until it was fulfilled? And in that middle space, he was sold as a slave by his brothers, wrongfully accused of sexual assault, imprisoned, and forgotten? Thirteen years of a life nowhere close to what he’d been promised.
A beautiful thing happened this past week. In a very brief phone conversation, an old friend told me she had a friend whose struggles and brokenness reminded her of my story. She asked if I’d be willing to talk to her about how I found healing. Seeming to have no control over my tongue, I heard myself say, “Sure! Yeah, I’ll talk with her.”
And the very next day, I got a message from someone whose heartache takes me back to who I was only a few years ago. Suddenly, I was playing therapist with two weeks still between me and my first Counseling class. I immediately felt terrified, overwhelmed, out of my depth. What do I say? How do I help her? Where do we even begin? How did I begin when the roles were reversed? Why do I have any credibility to talk to this stranger about her issues?
But then the idea of story came back to me. In a moment of clarity, I saw the most breathtaking picture of redemption. I once was living in a story of brokenness, anger, unforgiveness, and emotional imprisonment, but now I’m embracing healing, unconditional love, forgiveness, and freedom. I once hid the hard parts of my story because I didn’t want to be that girl everyone stared at because they couldn’t believe she was that messed up. Hell, I didn’t even want to admit my own brokenness to myself. But now, people know who I am and who I used to be, and believe that my story can help others. I once was lost, but now I’m found.
I think that those thirteen years were years of preparation for Joseph. Years of pruning his dead branches, and strengthening his naive shoulders to carry the weight of the honor that would one day be bestowed on him. Seventeen-year-old Joseph couldn’t have handled being lord over all Egypt, you know? And twenty-year-old Joseph wouldn’t yet have acquired the perspective necessary to readily forgive his brothers. He didn’t know all that at the time, but God did.
And when his dream of authority and honor was finally fulfilled, when the awful brothers who sold him into slavery realized their idiot kid brother was now essentially the king of the known world, when they begged for forgiveness and cowered at his feet, you know what he said? Thirteen years and countless tears later? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Oh, sweet redemption. I wished for a normal childhood for most of my life – one like my friends had, with two parents who loved them and siblings who would fight for them. I hated my story and the characters in it. Not anymore. My daddy issues and my assault issues and my boundary issues have found their redemption. I get to say, “You feel numb right now, but once you start mending, it’ll hurt like hell. And you’ll want to hide under a rock and just die in peace. But it gets better. I know because I got better. Here, I’ll light a match and show you the way out of this hole.”
What the enemy of my soul intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the redemption of one wounded heart. And hopefully many more. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.