“There are no safe paths in this part of the world” – the wizard Gandalf in master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale, The Hobbit.
Perhaps you’re not a fan of fantasy literature. Truth be told, neither am I, but Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth consistently rank near the top of recommended reading lists, and I think I understand why. Consider this quote from the same story:
“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”
If we were writing our own stories, I dare say most of us would write safe, comfortable ones. We would, like Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, want to stay where it was warm and dry and the pantry well stocked. We certainly wouldn’t write pain and suffering into our own lives or the lives of our loved ones.
I was struck by this point recently when I sat down with four residents at Anna Ogden Hall and listened to their stories. Each of them spoke of coming to a new understanding of God, and I realized that He had used pain to woo them to Himself. God is the ultimate author and designer of our lives. The Psalmist wrote: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” One of the residents that day, Leah, put it like this: “The key question for me is this, what is God’s ultimate plan for me? His answer is my journey.”
Chances are, if you and I were writing our own stories, they wouldn’t be very interesting. We might never come face to face with our weakness and our need. We might never fall on our faces or come up against more than we could handle on our own. We might never undergo hardship or grow or learn to do without.
Thankfully, God is the author of each of our stories. Sometimes the journey of reliance on Him is the pathway of pain, but the overarching theme is always grace. Thank you for helping to write that theme into the stories of the people who come through our doors.