The things we return to are a good indication of what is going on inside of us. The past month or so, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff. The past few weeks, it has been paper. I’ve taken all my old writing and notes and scanned them, saving them to google drive and a USB.
I’ve done this because I previously lost one USB containing all my writing, and broke one in half midway through writing extensively about what love does not do. That USB also contained edited versions of two other stories I had written including proposals that I submitted to writing agents in December of 2015.
I’ve come back to one particular comedic fiction story I began writing in 2010 that has endured 5 revisions. At this point, it is a story, that may never be finished and one that can’t exist without a sequel. I’ve recently come back to it, to check on it, to see how it sits and to recycle some of the hard copy paper it is printed on. In doing so, I was confronted with one version that was entirely edited by someone who I cared deeply for. The edits were valuable as I looked back on them. They actually did make the story better.
Edits can only improve a story if you actually changed the draft. If I decided, “these are good edits, but I’ll keep it the way it is,” the story would suffer. Returning to these pages often made me smile, until the last 10 or so pages where the investment in the editing took on a more personal and intimate nature. The story sounded too true to life, but it was comedic fiction.
I like the story, how it looks; it still makes me laugh; it is innocent and hopeful, yet feels real but is obviously fiction. I’ve had this thing, since I was about seven, where I told stories, created alternate worlds that looked a lot like ours. It became a coping mechanism for pain when I used fiction and fantasy to avoid reality. Now, everybody has gotten pretty good at this to some degree or another varying in creativity.
The problem I have now with my story, particularly the 10 pages of edits I’m stuck on is the tension of the editing. The editing, the notes in the column, tell a better story than the chapter I wrote. The notes make me feel, more than the writing does. Because the edits provoke me to deeper questions than the ones the protagonist is asking.
“Did I allow the edits God desired to make, make me better?” Forgetting the questions of why or how did I get there or how I got here, the question of, “am I living a better story? If not, why not?” takes center stage. And that’s a question that can’t afford to sit on a coffee table for 7 years or worse, a plastic bin in a moldy garage.
The Return of Glory
In Ezekiel 43, the prophet walks through the Eastern Gate and is greeted by the Glory of the God of Israel, the God of the entire World. And the sound was like water thundering down a river. The earth was bright and the vision was familiar. Familiar enough to make Ezekiel fall on his face again. The glory of God fills the temple as Ezekiel is lifted up and brought into the inner court to witness the presence. This type of return is worthy of musical accompaniment. God declares the temple to be His throne. Israel, as a result, will be changed. There will be no more defiling, no more whoring, and no dead kings.
God returns to dwell with and improve Israel. After the vision Ezekiel is commanded to share the new plan, the edited blueprint with the house of Israel if they are sorry for what they previously had done. Interestingly enough, the chapters prior describe rebuilding the place for God to dwell. What follows is the instructions and benefits that come with God’s presence dwelling among the people.
This is why the first thing restored after the glory of God returns is an altar. Now that God arrived, he expects our sacrifice and our offerings. He expects our whole heart. The response when God’s glory and presence arrive in Scripture always requires sacrifice and worship. In chapter 43, God even prescribes the steps in presenting the offering. God returns to make things better and restore relationship.
Returning to Your Story
I try to write about identity often because I want others to know that it is very easy to forget yourself. It is very easy to lose ourselves in what has hurt us or what we have lacked; then miss all that God has in store for the ones He loves. God is reading my story back to me and while the content is hard to revise, He is not asking me to live in the previous chapters to change what happened. God asks us to live from the past into a glorious future and a contented present.
God seems to be prescribing steps for me to take that I must take. And as I take them, I find myself tempted, not to forget myself but to hold myself higher in order to compensate for the perception of lost time. A child in me is calling out, “I really am better than what I’ve done. Dad, let me prove it to you. I’m better. I wasn’t trying my best before.” And my Father responds back patting me on the head, “It’s okay; let’s do this together this time. Let me deal with the things you can’t.”
When the next step seems impossible look up, don’t listen to excuses of inadequacy and take the step. When the next step seems tempting to boast in or receive praise or even criticism, look down, humbly taking the next step in obedience not for sake of personal gain or for the sake of your reputation. When your past is creeping up tempting you to feel former pain or pleasure, look straight; God is taking you somewhere better.
The past has made me who I am today. No matter how much I wish to rewrite it, no matter how familiar the sorrow may seem to me, no matter how good things may have momentarily been, who I am now can only receive fullness of joy if I am faithful and obedient to God’s guidance for today.
Jesus, you are the author, the edits to my life are on the altar and the rest of the story is yours too.