The words that we speak and hear and think every day are like the lines in a movie. The same words, the same lines, can have a completely different meaning depending on the soundtrack behind them. A simple phrase like “Here he comes!” can conjure up dread or delight, depending on whether the music hits an ominous tone or a crescendo of excitement. So with our words, we say “Here he comes!” or whatever else and we think, perhaps, that we know what those words mean, that somehow we are in control of them. But running underneath the noise of our many words runs a soundtrack of God’s story for us, and if we do not make time and space to listen, it is entirely possible we will get the meanings completely wrong.
When we lived in Grand Rapids, I heard a few notes and thought I knew where my story was going: working with the poor, visiting prisons and homeless shelters, taking seminary classes—it all fit together and seemed like good work that God would be pleased for me to do. But into this there is a giant turn as we move far away from family and friends, cutting me off from what I think I was supposed to be doing. And in that process, I have realized how much I think there is some kind of hierarchy with God—people who work with the poor are the “coolest,” people who serve privileged white corporate places are less admirable. Is it so hard for me to let go of that instant sense of moral superiority that working with the oppressed gave me? Have I in fact moved farther from God’s will being farther from the poor in my day-to-day life? I am impatient for God to use me in some large, obvious way, but perhaps what he wants is for me to do a whole lot of small, hidden things instead.
I find myself constantly thinking of better stories than the one God seems to be writing for me, stories that even seem more in line with God’s purposes on earth. But then I go back to the idea of soundtrack and realize I have no clue about God’s purposes on earth or how I might best serve them. I have the music of my own desires playing so loudly in my head I don't "get" it even when I think I do.
During our move and just after, my son watched the movie King of Dreams over and over again. In the part where Joseph struggles to understand God’s purpose he sings a song from jail called, “You Know Better Than I.” I downloaded it because I find it so compelling. And maybe God is trying to show me even as I write that this is the soundtrack of my life at this moment. A soundtrack that tells me God does know better than I do. Do I really believe that? No. But every time I hear it playing as I drive alone in the car, I find myself weeping. Tears for what I had that I find it so hard to let go of, tears for how much I want to be able to lose myself in whatever story God is writing, tears for all the things that make it hard for me to trust, tears for recognizing that whether I am serving in prison or feeding the corporate bottom line, God loves me the same. EXACTLY the same. And when I can hear even faintly that music behind the work of my life, I finally begin to believe the story will turn out right in the end.