Last night, along with thousands of others, I watched the T.V. in open-mouthed shock as the St. Louis Cardinals ended their fairy-tale 2022 season with an unexpected loss in the first round of MLB playoffs. This was not the story Cardinals fans had written. It was supposed to be one last magical post-season run with three of the greatest players the franchise (and baseball) has ever known. And instead, it stopped before it had barely begun.
Over the next several days, countless sportswriters and armchair managers will unpack all of the decisions, plays, and missteps that crashed the dream team train…but I’m not sure it matters. In fact, the Cardinals loss reminds me that when it comes to life, we don’t always get to write the story the way we want.
Americans love a good fairy tale–it’s what we’ve been raised on. From our nation’s inception the mythos has been one of digging deep and pulling up to overcome great odds and achieve the seemingly impossible in a way that storytellers describe as fated…magical…extraordinary…historic. We’ve been raised to expect a happily ever after. But that’s not real, at least, not always. The truth is that, despite our best efforts to write ourselves into the sunset, life can change the story pretty quickly. The dream team loses, our dream job goes to someone else, we’re outbid on our dream home, and our dream vacation turns into a nightmare. Sometimes there’s no prince charming or fairy godmother. Relationships get broken. Loved ones don’t get better. And we’re left with a profound sense of unfairness.
Unfortunately, many churches and ministries have fostered this fairy-tale thinking by selling a fabled version of Jesus. If you truly trust Jesus, the story goes, then your life will be magical, maybe what some would call #blessed. But that is a fallacy. The truth is, Jesus understood this life much better than we do. He saw the unfairness of life everyday as he walked past soldiers occupying his homeland, as he ministered to those who were outcast through no fault of their own, as he grieved with friends in the loss of a loved one, as he shared his food with those who had none to spare, and as he received the kiss of betrayal from a trusted friend. In this life, Jesus told his disciples, you will have trouble.
Fortunately for us, God is fashioning us a faith that can carry us far beyond the proverbial human-made sunset into the God-breathed ever after. How so? Look at what Jesus tells the man healed of demon possession in Luke 8:
When Jesus brought healing, he often instructed the recipients of his miracles to remain quiet. It seems odd, since so many people would have been moved by the miraculous. Yet Jesus wasn’t looking to be a side-show–he didn’t want people to focus on the happily ever after, but on the spiritual transformation that occurred when he entered into the story. Apparently, spiritual transformation is what this man in Luke 8 received. So Jesus instructed him to share his story with others…even though it wasn’t a fairy tale….and that is exactly what God is asking us to do too.
God calls us to share the story HE is writing–to live the messy, broken, unfair, complicated, ordinary, non-Insta worthy experiences that the world has written in our lives, but to do so with God as the author and perfecter of our souls. God invites us to place the big-game losses in his hands, so that he can encourage us, instruct us, and ultimately shape us for his kingdom. We don’t have to wallow when life does’t go our way, though there will be grief to bear. Instead, God calls us to give it to him because he can craft it into a story worth sharing.
Blessings and Peace,