Every couple of years, people become mesmerized by athletes coming together for the sake of competition and greatness. They come to compete from around the world, and they come to represent their nation. As much as following the excellence of an athlete, broadcasters have come to draw on the personal touches of something even greater than athleticism. Viewers, across borders, across the barriers of age and language, are drawn in by a universal thread. An athlete’s story.
Before so many events the news will hone in on one athlete and their incredible story, and by it, the watcher is drawn in, to not only applaud a story of one who overcame, but to then believe that that athlete could, and indeed should win. Suddenly the one with a numbered uniform becomes human, becomes personal, becomes a story so amazing and intriguing, that you must be less than human to do anything but root for them. Once we step back we realize there are thousands of other stories on the field, they may never get an interview or have cameras parading around them. But, nevertheless, everyone there has a story of overcoming to get them to that place.
Once we get off the Olympic field of athletic greats, we are in contact with people in our own home, on the streets, in our workplace or at school, people who are not static, standalone statues. They’re an intricate story; interwoven, overcoming and defeated, intersecting and colliding with countless other stories. Every walking, breathing story affected by the tangled web of other intricate detailed stories. No life stands alone.
Every day we encounter people. Happy people, grumpy people, messed up people, beautiful people, heroic people, angry people, inspiring people. So often, when we come across a personality bearing a strong positive or negative affect, it impresses us, and somehow impresses our mood or behavior. Like somehow the maniac driver who cut us off and revealed the fact that he has a middle finger has some precedence over our life. Why is it that in an instant a day going so well can be compelled to suffer from immediate anger and defensiveness?
We all have a story. Before there were ultrasounds and the glimpse into the fetal form, David had eyes to see, “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Ps 139:13) Our stories begin in that secret place. The innermost parts of our souls, desires, longings, sensitivities, driving passions and needs. God knew, for He designed each part with precision, on purpose. And for that reason, David could also write with confidence, “you have searched me and you know me.” (Ps 139:1). And the soul that was derived in that secret place is still known.
But in our jumbled up stories, the pure frame that was woven together can become tangled. Things happen. People hurt us, people disappoint us, broken stories come and break other stories. In the lie that we can live a fairy tale life, we experience wicked step mothers more often than fairy god mothers. What if we lived knowing that every story could end with a Prince that would sweep us away?
Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” And so, somehow, in the midst of this story, we must remember that in the end, Jesus does come and will make all things new. But in the mean time, we’re not stuck in brokenness. Life will always have its ups and downs, stories have drama. In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”
At every intersection, stories interact with stories. At every moment there’s a real opportunity for collision, for failure for hurt and pain. But in the midst of our story, every single time, we are given a choice as far as what to do with that. John Maxwell states that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of what you choose to do with it.” In my story, I can choose how to react to joy or pain. And that response I have in the intersection not only affects me, but weaves something into other stories relegated there.
My grandfather is a man who lived through WWII. He saw atrocities we would shield from our boys’ eyes. Stepping back from the trauma of war he came home, to a fiancé, his childhood love, dying of tuberculosis. Of all the sights of human brutality and carnality, what was most devastating to him was having the love of his life die. At that point he had a choice. Like his father before him, and other countless family members, he could have drowned his pain in alcohol, and vowed to never come back to life. But my grandfather chose a different path.
After the War, my grandfather encountered Jesus, another story led him there. Encountering Jesus, the only perfect story, changed his messy, hopeless, painful life to one of gratefulness, love and joy. Every time I have ever talked to my grandfather he always expresses how effervescent I sound. While my demeanor is usually much more subdued, I have often explained, it was merely a mirror reflection of the sound in his voice. My grandfather is a living story that dares to bring joy to countless other stories. He is always overcoming with good.
My grandfather lives in thankfulness. No matter what the circumstances, he always ends his conversations and letters with “there’s so much to be thankful for.” As he went to the store for groceries, it was always his goal to get the grumpy clerk to put on a smile.
“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Your story, my story continues today. It will intersect with other stories, but how the other stories affect me, I get to choose. I can become overcome by evil, or I can choose to overcome evil with good, through love, and thankfulness, through forgiveness and peace. Because the truth is, the Great Prince has come. He is the Way the Truth and the Life and He wants to make HIStory through you.
To all the veterans who have served, thank you.