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SOUDER: Finding ourselves in God’s great story

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Sometimes notoriety is not what we think it will be.

By Chuck Souder

I heard that several years ago, when President George H.W. Bush was on the campaign trail, he stopped in to visit some residents in a nursing home. Walking up to an elderly woman in a wheelchair, he tried to begin a conversation.

“Hello there, Ma’am, what’s your name?”

“Mary,” she answered.

“Well, Mary, it’s nice to meet you,” the president said. “Do you know who I am?”

“Well, no,” she replied, “but if you ask at the front desk, they’ll be able to tell you!”

We all want to be known. When I was in school, I had a grand desire to be known as a great basketball player.

Growing up in Scottsburg, Ind. (30 miles north of Louisville on I-65), one of the markers for sports achievement was to be written about in The Courier-Journal. For the big-city paper to cover something from our small school was a sure sign of importance, and if the story was accompanied by a picture, then you had most definitely ‘arrived’ as an athlete.

Further, in those days, only the pictures on the front page of the Sunday Sports section were in color, so to score a Sunday morning, front-page, color picture would cement your reputation as a great player – or so I thought as an aspiring young superstar. Because of this, I naturally made it a goal to have my picture in the Louisville newspaper. Little did I know how quickly my fame would come about.

In the fifth game of my sophomore season, I made my first varsity start. It was a Saturday night, and we were playing Columbus North High School, which was ranked among the top teams in the state.

Not surprisingly, we lost, but I felt that my debut had been successful. I just didn’t realize how successful. Imagine my surprise when I opened the Sports section of the Sunday paper the next morning to find a large color picture of me – shooting a perfectly formed jump shot! I had my picture on the front page of The Courier-Journal in my very first varsity game. (Yes, I know, you’re very impressed.)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the whole story. You see, also included in the picture was someone else. In fact, the someone else was on defense – and it was clear that his outstretched hand was about to block my perfectly formed shot. To add insult to injury, the caption below the picture said, “Columbus North’s all-state center, Chris Connolly, blocks the shot of an unknown Scottsburg player.”

An unknown Scottsburg player? You see, because it was my first varsity game, my name wasn’t even in the program, so the photographer couldn’t identify who I was. Of course, everyone who did know me thought it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. I wasn’t laughing.

The painful reality was that the story wasn’t about me. It was about someone else. The even more painful reality was that the someone else was better than I, more deserving of the story, more worthy of adulation.

If I am honest, I have to admit that most of the time I live my life as if the story is about me. Shakespeare wrote, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” but I usually act as if I am the star of the show. In my mind’s eye, all of this life is a movie, and I am the star, and those of you lucky enough to know me get to be bit actors in the larger story of me.

Does that sound selfish? Self-centered? Egotistical? Guilty as charged.

But I will submit that the reason it sounds selfish (to you) for me to say that life is primarily about me is because secretly you believe that life is really primarily about you. I think, deep down, we all are affected (or is that infected?) by the notion that life is about us.

We live as though we think that our primary purpose here on this planet is to create a name for ourselves, to become well-known, to gain fame and fortune, to get our picture in the paper.

The older and wiser among us know the folly of this line of thinking. The truly wise realize that the story is actually not about us at all; it is about Someone Else. And just like my first picture in the newspaper as a basketball player, the reality is that the Someone Else that the story is really about is much more worthy of a story, more deserving of honor, more worthy of fame and renown.

That Someone Else, of course, is the Creator of the Universe, and the truth is that all of history is actually “his story.” It’s the story of a God who created us to have a relationship with him. It’s the story of a loving father who would stop at nothing to reconcile His wayward children to himself. It’s a story that begins and ends with the father’s great love.

Unfortunately, most people are so busy trying to make a name for themselves in this life that they never come to understand the reality that it is only as we find ourselves within his story that our story makes any difference. When we lose our life in his life, when our goal is to increase his fame, we then find our part in a story that is worth living (Matthew 10:39).

If you are constantly struggling to find meaning in this life, to prove your worth or importance or significance to those around you (and maybe even to yourself), I encourage you to instead become more concerned with understanding God’s story and finding your place within it. If you do, you’ll begin to discover what Jesus said was the “life that is really life” (John 10:10) that can only be found when we realize that God is the only star of the show and that He deserves top billing in our lives.

By the way, as Columbus North continued to do well, that same picture (with very similar caption) was run twice more throughout that season. My friends thought that was hilarious. Maybe you do, too.

I’m still not laughing.

 

Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org. Find other columns by Souder at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.