Our experiences have meaning. There’s a reason we remember certain ones over other ones, why some are easier to recall. We replay them over and over again because they’re significant. We might not know why they’re important, we just know they’re special. We feel protective about them. We might even sense there’s more going on than we know. This is all due to meaning.
We have meaning in our experiences because God is a story teller. You don’t have to read the Bible very long to discover that God loves stories; the Bible is full of them. There are heroes and villains, triumphs and failures, bold adventures for truth. There are quests for justice, missions of mercy, great challenges. Warriors have weaknesses and enemies have strengths, but good conquers in the end. You can understand that God loves stories by reading the book He wrote.
There’s Caleb, who must conquer fear for there are giants in the land (his name means strong of heart). There’s Hannah, who fights valiantly for her unborn child with the unrelenting love of a mother. There’s Jacob, who is wounded by God in order to lead his people into divine humility. There’s Syntyche, who wrestles in prayer so Paul can be victorious. And we could speak of many others:
Of David and Daniel and Deborah; of Mary and Martha and Mark; of Tamar and Titus and Timmy. There’s a prophet sawn in half; a friend who spills his entrails, a lady who falls out of a window. There’s a waterproof basket rescue and an airborne basket escape. There’s a donkey that speaks a mouthful and a fish that swallows a mouthful. There is writing on the wall and writing in the sand and writing in the sky. And none of it is by chance. It’s all part of the story.
You would expect this intentionality from a God who creates all stories. Isaiah 46.9-10 says, “Remember the former things…I make known the end from the beginning….” This is to say that God knows the end even before the beginning starts. And because he has the end in mind, he can build the story right from the start. He has the convenience of omniscience.
But we don’t have this convenience. We don’t see the end from the beginning. We don’t always see the purpose in things that happen. We don’t know the complete story.
In September 2009, our family adopted Rex, a boy from the Philippines. It was a difficult two-year process. Months and months went by without hearing anything. After we submitted the paperwork, our adoption worker said, “If you don’t hear from me in a year, don’t worry—that’s normal.” While our friends birthed children, we waited for our son. His bedroom waited for him too. It stood dark and empty at the end of the hallway.
There were signs of hope along the way, though. This is where God the story teller comes in. Adoption isn’t just a process of family; it’s also a process of paperwork, and certain milestones mark the process. One is the approval of your home study, which means you’re legally approved to adopt a child. Without it, you can’t adopt. After our home study was approved, we noticed the approval date—October 20, 2007. That was my birthday.
Another form we received was the court’s Declaration of Abandonment. Through this document the Philippines officially declared Rex an abandoned child, and therefore, he was adoptable—another milestone. The date on the form was October 20, 2008. Again, my birthday.
On June 9, 2009, we received an official letter that our case was submitted to the United States Customs and Immigration Services, which would authorize us to bring Rex into the United States. June 9 is our daughter’s birthday. On July 3, 2009, we were certified to bring Rex into our home state. July 3 is my wife’s birthday.
This was all more than coincidence—it was intentional! When it happened the first time, I thought it was neat but nothing more. When it happened the second time, I started to understand that God was writing a larger story. This is what happens when God tells your story. He fastens experiences together to form something greater than the individual experiences.
Here was God using our birthdays to graft a boy into our family we had not biologically borne. Here was God emphatically overcoming questions of belonging. Here was God, the story teller. This is what he does. He sees the end from the beginning—even though we can’t—and he shapes our stories.
I don’t know if Rex will struggle with being adopted. I don’t know if he’ll feel like he doesn’t belong. But God is working hard to tell a different story—a story of him finding his permanent place within our family. In this story, Rex fits in so well that there’s no doubt if he belongs. This is why God directs us to remember the former things. By remembering moments of meaning, we start to understand our story because they’re the building blocks.
I don’t know what kind of meaningful experiences you’ve had—if they involve triumph or tragedy. I don’t know what enemies have fought against you, what strengths have risen up within you, what adventures you’ve been called to. I don’t know if others have joined you or if you’ve sojourned alone. But I do know that God is telling your story, and he’s doing it through these types of things.
If you don’t pay attention to your experiences, you’ll miss the story. Let me tell you, there’s more going on than you think. There are rescues to make, enemies to conquer, truth to find. There are children to fight for and mercy to grant and wounds to redeem. There might even be a donkey. So don’t neglect the meaning around you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your life is too ordinary for a good story. The common place is where most of your life-shaping experiences will happen. God likes to use the ordinary. Don’t think adventures just happen to other people, in other places, among other enemies, where the plot seems thicker. For you, there is no thicker plot than the one that involves you. God is telling your story, and a story by God is not to be missed.