40 years Moses wandered in the desert before he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted, tempted by Satan. All throughout scripture the number ’40′ is significant — generally symbolizing a period of testing. For some reason, I felt compelled to attend my 40th highschool reunion this past weekend. I went to my tenth but haven’t attended since. Sure… a visit to my home town, is always welcome, and I wanted to see my sweet parents, but the pull was more than that. Forty years is a long time. A generation.
What if our commencement speaker warned us that we were about to enter 40 years of testing? No way would I have believed him. I was an idealist who knew everything. “Let me loose, I plan to change the world.” And I’m sure, I wasn’t the only one.
During the reunion events, my memory proved cloudy for sure. Thank goodness for name tags and the circulating yearbooks. Sunday, a long travel day back to Albuquerque, I cannot help but reflect on my weekend, and the past forty years.
People are people
My highschool student body, perhaps typically, was comprised of a bunch of cliques. Back then, without name tags, everyone knew who belonged to which clique. Like guinea fowl always sticking together, we gathered as band geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, troublemakers, braniacs, class clowns, techies and stoners. (My memory may have missed a few)
Last night, with name tags, I was totally confused. Who should I talk to? Where are my people? Who are my people? In my confusion, I discovered something beautiful. People are people. Because I’ve been so public with my trials over this past year, and even longer, many knew my story. People I knew and people I didn’t approached me. Not only was I unsure of their clique, it didn’t matter. I was humbled to hear of how many, almost strangers, have rallied for us and faithfully prayed. And also humbled to hear how our family crisis has inspired others while facing their own trials. How crazy to think that God had specific plans for my little, insignificant, band geek life for the past 40 years and this weekend was His gift to get a sneak peak of some of His purpose.
Everyone has a story
My favorite part of the weekend was to “catch up” on the news of forty years. Without fail, each person had both highlights and lowlights. Often, I knew about the highlights. Very rarely, was I aware of the low lights. Curious, isn’t it? The low lights aren’t typically announced and typically remain buried. The lowlights don’t make the “highlight reel” we see on facebook. Because I’ve spent the year publicly sharing my lowlights, several sought me out to bravely share their own. Thank you. Consider this… I bet the “highlight reel” in heaven is playing your lowlights. I believe it’s in the lowlights where God plays more than a supporting role. It’s the lowlights that show the Almighty craftsman at work, chiseling your character. It’s the lowlights that prepare you for eternity.
During my Sunday school years, I learned about God by hearing the stories about the greats… Moses, David, Abraham, Paul etc. Guess what? They had lowlights too. Take David, for example. He was a common shepherd boy chosen to be king. To defend God, with 5 smooth stones, he bravely took on the giant, Goliath. David was also “a man after God’s own heart” — Impressive resume. But wait, there is more. David abused his power, committed adultery, even ordered murder. Not proud moments. But all of it, the good and the bad, makes up David’s story.
Have you ever wondered why so much scandal is included in scripture? Why are we told the whole story and not just the good bits — the bits we should emulate? I believe King David was a mess, just like you and me. Out of gratitude for God’s power to redeem, David shares his entire story– the good and the bad. By doing so, he models how messed up people can be raised to faithful heights.
Even though my story is messy and unfinished, Psalm 107:2 has been the motivation for my candid openness about the Lord’s goodness in my life.
Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe”
Tell Your Story
God is asking you too, to tell your story — to say so. God redeemed the yuck of David’s life. And God wants to do the same for you and me. He takes the lowlights — every disappointment, every tragedy, every broken marriage, every addiction, every jealous, greedy and selfish thought and action and uses them to show His redeeming power. That, friends, is the gospel. That is Grace.
40 years from now, I picture another reunion — the venue heaven. Band geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, troublemakers, braniacs, class clowns, techies and stoners will all be there. People will be there that will surprise you. And people will be absent that will surprise you. You won’t see wrinkles, extra pounds or missing hair. No aches or pains, no self consciousness, no unredeemed stories. No sadness, suffering, cancer or death. Imagine, over some finger food, thanking King David himself, for his stories’ influence on you. Make your plans to attend now. Assuming I die before I’m 97, I’ll be there for sure. I hope to see you there. The best is yet to come.