The reader is in control of the plot in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. I loved reading those when I was a kid. Bobby is stuck on the edge of a cliff. Turn to page 39 if you want him to use a rope to repel down. Turn to page 56 if you want him to pole vault across the ravine. Or turn to page 92 if you want him to construct a zip-line out of dental floss and a tube sock.
If I get to choose, I want life at its best. It is easy to wave a "thankful" flag when everything is going right. Children are giggling, the sun is shining, my man's loving arms are wrapped around me tight, I'm wearing skinny jeans, my home is beautiful, I'm getting plenty of sleep, my fridge is full, my friends are close, my family is healthy. Blessings. Blessings. Blessings. I'm so thankful for my blessings.
Many of life's choices are in my grasp. What college should I go to? What man should I marry? What should I name my baby? I made those choices with a little prayer, but I was in charge. I chose my own adventure.
Then there are plenty of things I don't have any control over. When a curve, twist or a difficult change comes I think, "this is NOT how I would have the story go!" A miscarriage or a friend who died too young. Those are the big things. A rainy day or kids who cry in the car. Those are the little ones. But all of them, through my whole life, I've said "No!" Give me the good stuff, NOT the bad.
I didn't see it as a problem, really. I was discontent with what I didn't like in my life's story. I would give God control, but all along reserve the right to be irritated when it wasn't going my way.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks about naming blessings as the way to live fully, right where we are. Each word of this powerful book led me to a better understanding of true contentment. She confronts what I questioned my whole life, "how do I accept the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly?"
She writes, "What is good? What counts as grace? What is the heart of God?
Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? ... A God of sporadic random, spattering goodness - that now and them splatters across a gratitude journal? Somebody tell me:
What are all the other moments?"
She goes on to explain with Scripture and beautiful word pictures that God sees a story that we can't see. Our perspective is small, but God is always good. "I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the embracing love of a God who 'does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow' (Lamentations 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace."
By wishing away events in my life and craving an adventure of my own choosing, I was rejecting God's plan. My revelation has brought with it a big challenge. What do I do when I am discontent? What do I do when I want to turn the page to a different ending? "The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good." (One Thousand Gifts, Pg. 100).
This is a hard discipline. A very hard habit to break. For my whole life I've practiced saying "no" and "yes," choosing my story and rejecting the rest with discontentment. The beauty of accepting everything in life is freeing. Finally, this adventure that God writes is the story I want.
*Author's note: Some page turns in our stories are so ugly, we can't justify those events with a good God. Why do bad things happen to good people? is an age-old, anguishing argument. I encourage you to read One Thousand Gifts in its entirety. I think the author explores this topic with clarity and understanding because of her own journey. I've never heard or read it explained so well.