Life among the pagodas
In your first note to me, you asked, “have you slipped the surly bonds of America?” Which really meant, “tell me a story.” (I had no grand travel story to share, but I still replied courteously, since you were obviously a lonely missionary.)
Our first conversation topic was suffering. You told me of encountering tourists in Myanmar, one who frankly admitted, “I think that I’ve never looked into religion because I’ve never really had to go thru suffering in my life.” We talked about that, how suffering changes people. We wrote each other back and forth on the subject for weeks, we questioned each other’s ideas of suffering and we answered each other in stories; in particular, that ultimate Story, the one we both love.
As I think on it, I realize that most of the stories swirling around this great orb exist to answer that question: why do we suffer? And if they don’t answer the question, they seek to comfort or cajole the despairing sojourners. And we loved that Story, because we knew it to be true—we loved it because it told of suffering so exactly, and brought suffering to an end—and so we kept sharing our individual pieces of that Story with each other as we talked.
I hoped you would find me distasteful and stop talking to me, but you didn’t. You kept telling me stories and asking for mine in return. (Part of me was quite charmed by this, much to the dismay of my Puritan sensibilities.) Some of your stories should have been a warning to me, for example:
“My sense of direction isn’t exactly the best. I’ve just learned to be comfortable getting lost.”
“Getting lost stories… I feel like that has been a main theme in the meta-narrative of my life.”
“Well, it’s not an accident unless blood is drawn. That will narrow it down quite a bit. That makes it only two or three in the last few years.”
Yet through it all was this uninterrupted theme, and you kept finding new ways to tell me about the story of Christ, how it was shaping your life, how you saw it shaping the lives of others. The more I listened, the more my skepticism about you faded; I realized that this wasn’t jargon to you: it was a part of you and of every other story you shared.
And you, confident man that you are, strode boldly into my life’s narrative. (I shudder to think of where I’d be now if I had authored our life, because I certainly would not have included you, with your long hair and your penchant for a difficult lifestyle.) Not only that, but you started telling me the parts of that Story we love, things I’d missed or failed to notice. Your mouth was filled with words of grace. You mobilized my soul-limbs from the frostbite of guilt, saying, “Remember, Breanna, God is always scheming for our good.”
Here we rest, a little more than two years after your first missive to me, and I love being older, if only for the sake of looking back and seeing some of that scheme unfolding. We have almost reached the turnoff for the next big adventure of our life together. I am not afraid of the sorrows that might be lurking along this road; partly because I’ll be facing them next to you, but mostly because our story is authored by God, and he has gone ahead of us. His goodness is as unquestionable as the sunrise, and since he is good, then so are all his stories, especially the one he’s called us to live out together.
Here’s to telling each other that Story every day for the rest of our lives. Here’s to sharing it over meals with everyone who enters our home. Here’s to being bold to tell it, because we have tasted its sweetness and seen that it is good, and most of all, because we know that it is true. Here’s to seeing this Story become truer to our eyes with each day that rolls over our heads, and to aging fearlessly, thirsting to see its end more clearly.
Here’s to our God, the author of all, first for rescuing us and rerouting our stories. Second, for giving me you, the finest companion for this journey. I couldn’t have written it better myself.
with all my love,
“And when, in scenes of glory, we sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that we have loved so long.” (K. Hankey)
Photo Credit: Alexa Siebring, Sola Company Photography