Life is the tale of
two stories-one finite and frail, the other eternal and
enduring. The tiny one-the story of us-is as brief as the
blink of an eye. Yet somehow our infatuation with our own
little story-and our determination to make it as big as we
possibly can-blinds us to the massive God Story that surrounds
us on every side.
It's a little like me being shocked a few weeks ago by the
reaction of two of New York City's finest as they motioned
me over to their squad cars in the middle of my mid-morning
run. The first officer's opening line (the exact
wording of which, I'm sad to say, cannot be repeated here)
led to the inexcusable reply,
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
I quickly realized I had said the wrong thing, especially
to a New York cop. In a heartbeat my hands were on the
hood of his car and threats of arrest were flying all over the
place. I was startled and unnerved, and though it was now
too late, my mouth was shut. Unless asked, I wasn't saying
another word, especially a sarcastic one.
To make matters worse, all I could produce in the way
of identification was a hotel key card-one of those fancy
new ones that looks cool but doesn't even contain the name
and address of the hotel. The whole scene was going downhill
Things had started off innocently enough that morning
as I headed out the door of our midtown-Manhattan hotel
and began plodding down the sidewalk toward the East River
about eight blocks away. But before I was two or three blocks
away it started to rain. First it was just annoying-an intermittent
spitting kind of rain. Then the wind picked up and a
steady, chilling downpour started making things miserable.
Assessing the situation, I determined I was too far from the
hotel to make turning back a sensible option, so I kept running
north along the river, pressing on in the driving rain.
I don't know what kind of shape you're in, but when I
run I think more about survival than scenery. And when
I'm running in a cold downpour, I barely think at all. I
certainly don't look around to read a lot of the signs. Thus,
I wasn't paying much attention when suddenly my path was
blocked by a chain-link fence. It stretched from the riverbank
on my right to a concrete lane divider that had been
following me on my left. Once again I considered my
options. Retracing my steps still didn't make sense. What
made sense was getting out of the rain. So without thinking
I hopped over the lane divider and headed for the shelter
of an overpass I now noticed across the way.
Quickly the overpass turned into an elevated roadway,
so I could keep running under cover. I continued north,
not really noticing that the lane to my right at some point
became two lanes of traffic, and then three. After another
mile or so, all three lanes of traffic were moving slower
than I was and a driver in one of the cars shouted something
in my direction. But in the rain and traffic, I
couldn't quite make out her words and was trying to ignore
her anyway. Then the overpass drifted away to the left and
I was once again exposed to the rain.
Soon I noticed the lower levels of the United Nations
buildings on my far left, and nearer and just ahead two
police cars parked on a wide concrete median. A single
officer sat in each car, their eyes meeting mine as each step
I ran drew us closer. Everything seemed to be fine, until my
forward progress was interrupted by the piercing "blurp" of
one of the officer's sirens and the intense motion of his
hand directing me to approach his car.
It was at that moment I realized for the first time I was
running down the middle of the FDR, a six-lane expressway
that snakes along the eastside shoreline of Manhattan.
No wonder the officer's first question when I finally
splashed to a stop in front of his car was incredulous and
How can you run down the middle of a New York free-way
and not know it? I think the same way you can live your
entire life completely oblivious to the grand story of the
Creator of the universe that is unfolding all around you.
The same way you can spend your days making so much of
someone as small and transient as you or me, and so little
of someone as glorious and eternal as God.
That's why this book is not about you and making your
story better, but about waking up to the infinitely bigger
God Story happening all around you, and God's invitation
to you to join Him in it. It's about looking up to see that
there's a story that has been going on long before you
arrived on the planet and one that will go on long after
you're gone. God is the central character of this story and
of this book. He commands center stage in existence,
Creation, time, life, history, redemption, and eternity.
I'm not trying to put you down or imply that you don't
matter. Nor am I saying that you are absent from the grand
Story of God. In fact, just the opposite. Amazingly, you
appear on every page, existing in God's thoughts long before
this world was made. I'm simply stating the obvious-that
THE STORY ALREADY HAS
A STAR, AND THE STAR IS
NOT YOU OR ME.
And here's why it matters-if we don't get the two stories
straight, everything else in our lives will be out of sync.
We'll spend our days trying to hijack the Story of God,
turning it into the story of us. Inverting reality, we'll live
every day as though life is all about you and me. We'll live
as though life is our one-act play and history our story-as
though Creation is our habitation alone, existence our
playground, and God our servant (that is, if we decide we
need Him at all). We will throw every ounce of our energy
into the fragmented and fleeting story of us. Calling the
shots ourselves, me-centered thinking will dictate every
move we make and how we feel.
And in the end-when the last clap is clapped for our
tiny tale-our story will fade to black, a pitiful return on
our one-shot chance called "life on earth."
About thirty minutes into my ordeal with the officers,
the situation lightened a bit as I realized the worst that was
going to happen to me was a ticket for jaywalking, something
I certainly deserved. As we were waiting for my life's
history to appear on the squad car's computer, the nicer of
the two cops asked within earshot of the other, "So what do
you do for a living, anyway?"
Opting for the short answer, I said, "I'm a pastor."
Two sets of eyebrows rose.
"A pastor! What kind of pastor are you?"
I think he was looking for the name of a denomination,
but I replied, "I'm a Christian."
"Oh, yeah? Well what are you doing in New York?"
"I'm here to speak to a group of college students
tonight out in Queens."
"So, what are you going to tell them?"
For a split second time stood still. And then I told him,
"I'm going to remind them that life is short and our time
on earth is really brief," I said. "That's why we have to make
sure our lives count for the stuff that lasts forever."
That's what I want to do in these pages, too. Lead you
to a fresh awareness of the six-lane-wide-freeway-sized
God Story that you and I are running down the middle of
It's a place that requires a constant choice. We can
choose to cling to starring roles in the little-bitty stories of
us, or we can exchange our fleeting moment in the spotlight
for a supporting role in the eternally beautiful epic
that is the Story of God.
Think of it as trading up. Abandoning the former and
embracing the latter will allow our little lives to be filled
with the wonder of God as we live for His fame and the
unending applause of His name. And joining our small
stories to His will give us what we all want most in life anyway:
the assurance that our brief moments on earth count
for something in a story that never ends.