On my desk at home sits an old Underwood typewriter, just for looks.
Tucked between the rows of typewriter keys perches a little black-and-white picture. The people in the picture are arranged according to their age (except for the woman holding a baby at the end of the row) with their backs to an old Greyhound bus. I see my reflection in the little blonde-haired girl standing between two rambunctious boys.
In the picture, I am only five years old, but I remember that 1984 photo shoot in Rochester, New York.
As the daughter of an evangelist, I grew up traveling, meeting all kinds of people, and fellowshipping with pastors, missionaries, and other evangelists. That was my life for thirty-one years. Yes, that life included challenges. Like sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor in church nurseries when our motor home broke down or having to light the propane tank in our (supposedly) newer motor home while standing in freezing cold. Like singing even when you felt feverish or driving through the night to the next meeting.
But the adventures far outweighed the challenges, and with the adventures came plenty of perks. Sleeping in fancy hotels. Finding gift baskets of fruit, chocolate, and juice in those hotel rooms. Eating at nice restaurants. Ministering to people in song, knowing the moment when the Holy Spirit was moving and I saw that reflected in the faces of the people in front of me. Talking to people at the CD table, signing CD covers, and taking pictures. And much more that I no longer remember.
But that is not my life anymore. The picture perched between the typewriter keys is a picture of the past, and I cannot go back in time.
Funny how we like to think that other chapters of our lives are more exciting than the one we are in right now.
We look longingly at the far past, relishing the memories and sometimes desperately re-creating them. We forget all of the turmoil, the frustrations, the endless whys of those days. Instead, we think that the present chapter somehow lacks a luster, a shine, a glory that the old days contained.
Or maybe we look to the future as the best chapter of our lives yet unfulfilled. We believe that if we can just fast forward to the afterword, we would find true joy and fulfillment in life.
I have tried to fast forward, too. Sometimes I think this chapter—what is it now, chapter eighty-two, same story?—could be edited in such a way that I skip to the ending faster. But that is impossible. No jumping ahead in the story for me.
When I think of jumping ahead in the story, I am reminded of Joseph the Dreamer.
I have always loved the story of Joseph’s life. He was steady. Faithful. Intelligent. Diligent. No matter where he was in life, whether it was in a prison or a palace, he conducted himself with integrity and excellence. I wonder sometimes if he ever struggled with his story the way I struggle with mine. He never seemed to waver when God abruptly changed the story line of his life.
One day, reality hit me. Joseph did not know the ending of his story. He had to trust in the dark—sometimes literally, like in a pit or a prison. Alone. Afraid.
Joseph did not have the luxury of reading his story in the Bible because he was living his story right then.
He could not have known how his story would come together. Yes, he did have God’s promises that one day—in the distant future—he would be in a powerful position of authority. But he did not know exactly how the chapters of his life would unfold. Instead, he had to remain faithful to the story God was writing. He had to do what was right in front of him with faith and courage because he could not go on to the next chapter until he did.
The chapters of my life have led me to thirty-one years of traveling and adventures, one year of working at a Christian school in Maryland as a school secretary, and four years at Pensacola Christian College studying professional writing. Now I find myself in Oklahoma, working full-time as an administrative assistant at Oklahoma State University, trying to sharpen my writing skills on the side, building new family relationships at my church, slowly feeling my way along a new path.
This is not exactly the picture I had in mind for this era of my life. The chapter I am in now fills me with both excitement and fear at times. How my adventurous, wayward heart would love to run back to the past or rush ahead to the future.
Like Joseph, I must trust in the dark and rest in the fulfillment of God’s will for this chapter of my life.
And maybe someday in the distant future—like Joseph—I will look back to this chapter as the best one yet.