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.