It was Ash Wednesday night, a half hour before the pastor would put an ashen cross on every forehead under the steeple of my country church.
Locally, our church has informally been dubbed, “the food church.” We like to eat together, to put our feet under the same table. So it was no surprise that before we recited the creeds, we gathered at long tables in the fellowship hall for bowls of steaming soup.
I had a creamy spoon-full of chicken-and-rice in my hand, when a good friend set her plastic tray down across from mine.
She put her elbows on the table, remarked about my new blog and asked me, in essence, to define my calling. (She’s a teacher in our community, and always asks the questions that get to the heart of the matter.)
I sat there a while, thinking about what I wanted to say. The answer to that one question — how did you get to where you are, right now? — is often a long time coming for any of us. And if we’re drawing breath, we’re still mid-story, just trying to figure it all out.
You see, I’ve been writing professionally since I was 16 years old, first for a tiny local weekly, where I wrote high school baseball stories.
I grew up, and so did the stories.
I spent the next years of my career covering homicides, tornadoes, boring city council meetings, the 2000 presidential election (the year of the “hanging chad”), amazing human feats of courage, daring rescues, harrowing tales that took me to strange and (sometimes scary) places. I always carried a spiral-bound notebook, and always carried questions for someone else to answer.
It’s a long story, but I’ll keep it short: We moved back to the farm. The bylines stopped, but I still carried a notebook, still carried a desire to chase after a good story. I started asking myself those questions in the notebook. Just started asking myself all those pressing “Whys…”
Friend, I stopped chasing stories. And when I wasn’t even looking, the story came chasing after me. And now I’m writing about it, the redemptive story of Christ in each of us.
But unlike all those politicians, Christ gives me a straight answer. He always answers my calls. And he’s absolutely NOT lying when He says He can walk on water.
(And, spoiler alert here, this news story has a happy ending. I know, because I’ve read the last pages of the book. Jesus wins.)
But there’s something that hasn’t changed all these years: I firmly believed then — and now — that everyone has a story. And I firmly believe that you are God’s great idea.
You are a masterpiece, and I’d take all the ink in all the mismatched pens in my messy kitchen drawer to let you know it.
So, last week under the church steeple, I set down my spoon, leaned over the table, and told my friend my purpose in writing: “To let people know that they are loved by God, that their lives and their stories matter to God, and that they matter to me, too.”
Right here, in my own community, people ache to know that they count. They want to be picked. They want to be on someone’s list. They desperately want to know that their lives matter.
Maybe that someone is you.
— You, the tired mama with the two toddlers and yesterday’s supper dishes still in the kitchen sink.
— You, with the hurt in your eyes.
— You, with the rejection letter in your mailbox.
— You, with the world turned upside down.
— You, feeling unseen, unimportant, unworthy, unnoticed.
I can think of no more important words that I can tell you today than these: You. Matter. You are God’s masterpiece. You were created anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things He planned for you, long ago.
He had such a good idea when He made you.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return. And someday, we’ll sit across a great table, leaning in toward one another, and whispering to each other, with tears in our eyes: “We made it! We really made it! He said we would, and He kept His good promise.”