Embracing Our Role in the Real World
By SARAH GUTHRIE
The year was 1841. London had born the shock with tears and sorrow, and now word was beginning to make the voyage across the Atlantic as sailors and tradesmen brought the headlining news to the story-starved crowd that congested the dock upon their arrival. They all whispered the same question: “Is Little Nell dead?”
And much to the nation’s dismay … she was.
For over a year the two countries had become involved with her unfolding story — an orphaned darling who was the epitome of everything true, noble, just, and pure — and now it was final. “Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead.” Nell was a celebrity, a household name, a person everyone wished they knew … and her passing led to sincere heartbreak.
While this is a true story, Nell’s story is not. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Nell is a fictitious character, made up in someone’s imagination and brought to life through black and white newsprint that spread like wildfire in Victorian England and America. And yet, readers wept as if Nell was flesh and blood.
Sounds like something that could only occur in a day and age before social media and cell phones, right? Well, fast-forward a hundred years or so. Generations later, history repeated itself when the last installment of a wildly popular fantasy series, featuring a wizard with unusually round spectacles and a striped scarf, arrived in bookstores. It was recorded that the public’s reception of the instant bestseller mirrored the reaction of Little Nell’s demise. Apparently, times haven’t changed all that much!
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This story reminds us that words are incredibly powerful. They convey information, ideas, emotion; progress thoughts to action; create relationships; and make concepts lift out of our minds and into our lives. A look through the telescope of history reminds us that words served as the device God employed to usher the world into existence, convey His Message, and, when the fullness of time had come, provide salvation when the Word became flesh and gave His life so we might find our own.
I firmly believe that God’s original intent for words is far grander than what we see at first blush. And I equally believe that is why the enemy is out to spread his propaganda and paper this world in lies in order to gain a following for his broad way that leads to destruction.
Words are more than a combination of the 26 letters of the alphabet. They are a multipurpose invention of the Almighty. One such purpose is that of wooing a renegade people in the truest tale of redemption that reaches epic proportions … and you and I get the privilege of being supporting characters!
The problem in this plot is that all too often we can be easily swept away with worlds — imagined or real — that are simply not ours to live. Worlds like knowing every nook and cranny of “Middle Earth” (featured in a popular book series). Or we can visit the enticing circle around our favorite Insta-user’s profile photo that invites us into their “day in the life” (and, ironically, can consume a good deal of our own!). Reality TV shows, Netflix series, Hallmark originals, Comic Con, and more can easily appear as if they hold a glittering reality of all that our world doesn’t — purpose, adventure, love, slower times, or even organization to our sock drawers.
What could be a perfectly safe and delightful world to visit on occasion morphs into a campsite … then a RV hookup … and before we know it, we’re pouring a foundation with plans to take a load off and stay a while.
Please don’t misunderstand me, if you were to look at my nightstand, you would notice that I am about halfway through Anne of Green Gables … an eight-book fictional series. And — can I be honest — I’m enjoying it thoroughly! I have found kindred friends in the world of Avonlea … but I have to remember that I’m not to enjoy Avonlea at the expense of neglecting the here and now of where the Lord has placed me.
Without realizing it, participating as an ongoing spectator to the lives or worlds of others (whether imaginary or real) can swiftly turn an encouraging outlet into a distraction. What began as a way to enliven our free time or freshen our book lists disintegrates into the stuff for moths and rust … it might not be sinful, but it simply isn’t eternal. And when our mind is more present in the realms of social media, entertainment, or that “I can’t get enough” fiction series than it is in the God-given responsibilities He has set before us, the purposes He planned in advance for us to do are diminished. Any time there is an over-emphasis of these sorts of activities, we find ourselves being pick-pocketed by pop-culture.
The Author of the universe has a role of significance awaiting you to further His Gospel of Truth and Love — the greatest story of all! There are very real causes in desperate need of aid and intercessors, very real lives that are hanging in the balance between life and death. But the depths of this reality cannot be glimpsed unless you put lesser worlds in their place and step fully into the pages of the story He has penned for you. An “on earth as it is in Heaven” adventure is yours for the living and His for the spending … the question is: Which world are you living in and which Kingdom are you promoting?
My desire is that if someone were to read my life, they wouldn’t so much come away knowing that I was born in May, love the ocean, and appreciate a good surprise. I want others to be more acquainted with Jesus in being acquainted with me. My prayer for you is the same: that you would desire to see J-E-S-U-S written across every page of the book that is your life. The thoughts below are ways that God has shaped my thinking and how He has worked in my own heart as I have sought to live fully in this present age rather than being caught up in another. And I hope that they encourage you to do the same!
Our times are in God’s hand, and in His hand is a book. (See Psalm 31:15; 139:16.) How interesting! Our Creator has many names, but He is also known as Author. In fact, the Almighty has chronicled your every tear (no matter the cause), every journey (no matter how steep or shallow), and every day (no matter how long or short).
From the first breath to the last, God has a plan for us to bring Him glory and praise all the way through it. To know that each page of our story was lovingly, tenderly crafted by our Heavenly Father to showcase the transforming work of His Son is a marvel! Even the “hard things” like sorrows, trials, or pain aren’t blots on the page, but avenues through which we ourselves may see and know Him more.
In Hebrews, Jesus is referred to as the Author of our faith (12:1–2). In that same portion of Scripture we are exhorted to look unto Him as we run the race that He has set before us. Notice that God’s Word doesn’t say that we are to look unto others or at the racetrack that God has set before them. It is certainly healthy and helpful to encourage our hearts with the stories from heroes of the faith to spur us on. But peering into the lives of others with dissatisfied, discontented, thrill-seeking hearts — or continuously checking on how they are running their races — can cause us to veer off-track or lead us to stumble.
If you have noticed that your gaze has been riveted to the courses of others more than the Author of your own story, begin redirecting your focus by remembering that the True and Living God has called you up and out of the rat race of this world into a race of enduring faith. Get back on track by removing distractions and placing safeties around those areas that might lure you into old patterns.
Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36). In other words, we can gain the whole “world” of Netflix, Facebook, Middle Earth, and the like … and yet, in our heart of hearts, we can feel shallow and empty.
The best way to keep from becoming entangled in the stories of others is to find refuge in the right Book! Immersing yourself in the story of Scripture will help you to develop a mind that hungers and thirsts after His words of truth and righteousness more than the words of public opinion.
If your time in the Word of God is brief when compared to the amount of time, focus, and energy you are exerting in other sources of information, check to see if your mind and heart are set on things above or on the clutter of this earth. Take up the Word by day or night in whatever form you can — bound and printed, on your phone, in your earbuds, read it silently; or find a dramatized audio version. (The Word of Promise is my personal favorite!) There is no way we can live out the story He has for us, if we don’t instill His Word deep within our hearts.
The living letter
Have you ever heard the old statement, “You might be the only Bible someone will ever read”? I realize the mind-picture could be slightly boggling if you think about that literally, but it expresses a truth found in Scripture. God’s Word says that we are to be the epistle of Christ that is written not with ink but by the very Spirit of God. (See 2 Corinthians 3:3.) In essence, our lives are meant to be living, breathing, walking, talking, letters. And what are these letters supposed to contain? They are to tell the wonders of God’s love, salvation, hope, and peace written in a style that this generation can understand, see, and know the Father’s everlasting love!
This world encourages us to share our story, capitalize on what makes us unique, and build soap boxes to promote our own causes, but sisters, this is all about His Story — not yours or mine. Because at the end of my day, the only story worth telling is what Christ has done to make me more like Himself, and the only soap box worth standing on to promote a cause isn’t a box at all — it’s a cross. In the beginning and at the end — it’s all about Him.
Spend some time tracing the course of your life. Reflect over milestone moments, seasons of growth, periods of waiting, hardships, and more. With eyes of faith see how God has drawn you to Himself. Journal the sweetness of seeing Him at work in different seasons. Rehearse the faithfulness of His perfect timing, sovereignty, control, and care. And then pray for direction and opportunity to humbly share out of these “God-sightings” in your life so that others might be encouraged in their pursuit of Jesus. It might simply be sharing the work He has done with a neighbor, or preparing a talk for a girls’ group at church — either way, being a living epistle of Christ is all about sharing His story and how it has affected your own.
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One of my heroines of the faith was a widely-known evangelist in her day, traveling to more than 60 countries and writing over 20 books sharing out of what she learned and lived amid the awe-inspiring story God scripted for her life. And what amazes me is that whenever I walk away from reading her books, I’m not in awe of her. I’m in awe of Jesus. Through her beautiful example, I have learned that the best storytellers are those who use their experiences to point others to the Living Word and His truth that sets free.
May we love to tell the story of Jesus and His love, and may we learn to proclaim His works to all generations, beginning with our own.