Don’t Miss the Real Story of Your Life

The movie Darkest Hour details just how close to the edge of destruction Britain came in WWII. Nearly their whole army—300,000 men—was trapped on the shores of Dunkirk, sitting ducks for the Nazis. The story is awash in desperation—and human courage—most notably that of the irascible Winston Churchill.

The backstory, though, is the one you almost never hear. On Sunday of that fateful weekend in May, the king declared a National Day of Prayer. Thousands of Brits piled into cathedrals, with queues out the doors, to pray for their sons.

In a mystery no one has yet unraveled, Hitler halted his advance for three days—for no explainable reason. Next, bad weather grounded German planes all of Tuesday, allowing the troops to assemble on the beach. And Wednesday—the day of evacuation—the sea was utterly calm and the skies cleared. Eight hundred civilian boats carried the troops safely across the channel.

It’s always been called “the miracle of Dunkirk,” though it’s been a long, long time since the God who grants miracles was given the honor and gratitude that belongs to Him.

My point, though, is not historical. What the film reminded me is that the real story in any situation is always the God-story. It’s often behind the scenes—and in the easy-to-skip-past parts—where He does so much of His best work. It is God’s movement, in history, as well as in the personal details of our lives, that matters. That is the real story.

I saw that in my own life this past Christmas. Cooking and decorating and who came to dinner—isn’t this what we report to each other? What we think of as “Christmas?” It’s the Christmas I describe to my friends.

But behind the moving picture of stuff happening on a holiday, an older couple who are parents of four adopted children invited our son and his wife to lunch on Christmas Eve. Around their table, they let Brady and Hannah share their adoption saga. They listened. And understood. They got it.

Isn’t that always one of the great gift moments in your life? When you tell some little piece of your story and the other person gets it? Oh my stars, it’s such a gift.

This “behind the scenes” stuff in our lives is where it’s really happening. Whether it’s the story of Dunkirk or our kids’ lunch with an older, caring couple, what’s happening just off center stage is the important part. It’s the God-story that counts. Always.

Adapted from Paula’s blog from December 30, 2017.

On Your Own

The Old Testament is filled with stories of God working behind the scenes. Habakkuk (1:5) said that God, indeed, is doing something in our day we would not believe if we were told. Over the coming days, keep your eyes open to see what He’s about, the “real story” He is writing in your life. These days can be busy—and God’s role can be hard to recognize in the moment—so, at the end of the day, spend a few minutes in prayer, reflecting on where God was showing up. As Paula writes, “Your story has pockets of beauty and goodness you will miss if you aren’t careful—those little important happenings that whisper of a greater glory to come.”

For more about the ancient practice of examen, the practice of reflecting on God’s often hidden movement behind the scenes of our everyday lives, check here. —Dean Storelli

Christmas is a Collision of Worlds

Within a few weeks of throwing my lot in with Jesus, I pledged a sorority. It was a collision of worlds. I was an ignorant freshman, a fledgling Christian and a freshly-minted sorority girl.

I look around at my new sorority sisters. Hmm, we all look the same. Young, white, well-dressed women, from good-enough families, aspiring to great things. It’s not as snobby as it sounds—more like, “intentionally monolithic.”

Simultaneously, I become immersed in Christian groups. Wow. This was the widest mix of people on the planet! What powerful force, I wondered, could draw together the drop-out and the scholar, the penniless and the preppy? I was in awe. I got the message pretty quick: Jesus could shape in people’s hearts a love for that which was not like them. I was hooked. It was an utterly different kind of beauty that drew me. I have come to think of it as the beauty of the gospel.

Last Saturday, my wonderful Virginia cousin gave me the gift of touring homes in Richmond’s “old Victorian” section, all decorated for Christmas. For three hours, I walk through homes with period antiques and crown moldings, gables and front porches, all decked out for Christmas, each house fit for a cover of Southern Living.

A familiar mirage begins to take shape in my head. I feel myself sucked into an old vision of “The Good Life.” Though I’ve known plenty of people in homes like these and know better than most that the lives inside don’t often match the decor (I am a counselor)….still, I can be fooled.

The next morning finds me in my regular church service back home, and once again, I experience that wonderful collision of worlds. It makes my head spin in a needed way.

Here I sit, once again, among the people of God. We are quite the crew. Where else could you find, in the same setting, the Duke professor, a child crawling in the aisle and a woman wearing an elf hat? Preaching and music and sacrament come together in a deeply-cleansing whole. This beautiful gospel of a beautiful God with nail prints in his hand. I am converted all over again. This Christmas, once more, I trade the mirage for the Real.

Perhaps something like this collision is happening for you this Christmas. Perhaps in some way, two different visions of beauty—of reality itself— are colliding.

My hope is that the beauty around us will draw us all to the true Source.

Nails, spears shall pierce Him through.

The cross be borne for me—for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The babe, the Son of Mary.

(A longer version of this post was originally published here.)