What I’ve Learned So Far

Note to self:  If your wife says she doesn’t want anything for your anniversary, she’s lying.  She’s lying through her teeth.  What she really means is, “You should love me enough to know what I want.”

One year we had to replace a major appliance the week before our anniversary.  Christy told me, “We really shouldn’t spend any money on an anniversary present this year.”  I was dumb enough to believe her.   What she didn’t say, though, was I don’t want you to DO anything for our anniversary.  She didn’t rule out homemade cards, heartfelt letters or a candlelight dinner at home.  She didn’t say, “Blow off our anniversary.” 

Apparently, there’s a big difference. 

This month marks the one year anniversary of the Life Less Traveled.  Because I don’t want any of you  walking away feeling forgotten, I thought I’d take a minute to say happy anniversary and thanks for an incredible year.  When I started writing this column, I had no idea how much I’d learn along the way.  Here are a few lessons that God’s taught me from writing the Life Less Traveled.

1.  Life is about paying attention.

Writing about life is a blessing because it forces me to stop and pay attention.  I think busyness is the number one enemy of my soul.  I have so much to do every day that I know I miss some beautiful moments God wants me to enjoy along the way.  Because I have a weekly deadline to write this column, though, it’s forced me to stop and look at what’s happening all around me.  It’s forced me to constantly ask the question, “What can I learn from my life?”

2.  God speaks through our stories.

Everyone’s life is a collection of great stories.  Everyone.  Our stories don’t have to be big to be significant.  I’ve written about some of the dumbest things that have ever happened to me, yet it seems like God had something to say to me in each of them.  You don’t have to be a celebrity to lead an interesting life.  Life is what you make of it.  What’s God saying through your everyday adventures?

 3.  We all need to lighten up.

The more I write about life, the more I realize that how funny it is.  I believe we all take ourselves way more seriously than we should.  Yes, people have real challenges that aren’t remotely funny, but, honestly, most of us get frustrated and whine about things that don’t matter at all.  People cutting us off in traffic.  Someone hurting our feelings or stepping on our pride.  Most days I just need to lighten up, laugh more and be thankful to be alive. 

I’m thankful most of all for all of you who’ve been reading.  My favorite part of this column has been hearing from so many of you about what God has been up to in your life.  Every time I get an e-mail from you, it blows my mind to hear how God used some of these stories.   

So, happy anniversary, guys, and thanks.  You’ve given me way more this last year than I could have given you.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for each of us we begin another year living a life less traveled.

My Ballet Debut

Earlier this year I scored a couple of free tickets to the ballet, thinking it might be a great, cheap date with my wife, Christy.  To be honest, the ballet isn’t really my thing.  I spend most of my entertainment time watching movies where things explode.  One trip to the ballet, though, and I knew I would totally impress Christy with my cultured, sensitive side.

Besides, how bad could it be?  They surely had a concession stand and some kind of half-time, right?

I hadn’t given it much thought until the night before the performance.    But then, Friday evening, I began to suffer from what I can only describe as severe ballet anxiety.   I knew there would be a lot of dancing and men in tights, both of which make me uncomfortable. 

I checked the tickets.  The ballet had a high-brow French or Italian name I’d never heard of before. 

What had I gotten myself into?  I had no idea how long this thing would last or if I would even be able to follow it. 

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Editing Life

How do you edit someone’s life? I’ve spent hours asking myself that question all week. I’ve been given four stories, the amazing life stories of four women, and I have to edit them together to tell one big story. I have to decide which parts of their lives mattered most and what to leave out or condense.

They’re all former exotic dancers who found hope, freedom and new life in Christ. Most of them were abused. All were children of divorce. All were addicted to drugs or alcohol. But now, all of them are free.

They’re sharing their testimonies at a banquet for a ministry my friend, Ked, leads called the Refuge for Women, a place that helps women who are trapped in the adult entertainment industry. If you read the Bible, you’ll see that these were the kind of people Jesus loved to hang out with the most, scandalous people, people whom the religious elite wouldn’t go anywhere near. That’s why Ked and his staff have a farmhouse where ladies who’ve made some bad choices can go, work through their baggage and get a fresh start.

So, back to my job. I have 16 pages of single-spaced, rich life story, and I have to get it down to about four pages. I have to edit their lives. Which moments are most significant and help make sense of their life’s journeys? What can I cut?

It got me thinking about my own life. There are plenty of moments I’d love to cut, places I wish I’d never gone, things I wish I’d never done, words I wish I could take back. I can think of dozens of moments off the top of my head that I’d love to take a red pen to and ‘x’ out of my life story.

But I can’t. And neither can you.

Yet, when I look at the stories of these four women, it’s the hurts they’ve endured and the mistakes they’ve overcome that make them so courageous. Their stories remind me that God doesn’t waste anything. The Bible says that “In all things God works together for the good of those who love Him.” In other words, He weaves the good, the bad and the ugly of our lives together for our benefit. Each one of these women are now loving and encouraging other hurting women in ways that only they can do because of their life experience.

It’s funny. I think I’ve learned more about God this week from four ex-strippers than I did in five years of seminary.

See, God makes our stories count. He makes our pain count. He somehow even takes our most selfish, boneheaded actions, and guess what? He can make those count, too, not just for our good, but for the good of others.

God really is the great editor of our lives.

And the best news? That red editing pen? He’s got one. He uses it to cross out our junk and tell a new story. A better story. That’s what a good editor does, takes a raw manuscript, cleans it up and polishes it until it shines.