I’ve said those words – or some variation of those words – a bunch over the last six or seven months.
- If it were up to me, we’d be together.
- If it were up to me, I’d be there, not here.
- If it were up to me, I’d be doing that, not this.
I read something today that made me realize I shouldn’t say those words again.
Last night, a dear friend gave me a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She described it as a book about gratitude. I’m not very far into it, so I can’t say that she’s right or wrong in that characterization, but I do know that Chapter 1, which I read tonight, just about knocked me over.
The author opens the book talking about loss. Her husband’s brother lost two children – two babies – within two years. His babies had a terminal condition in which their lungs atrophied. When she saw her brother-in-law upon the death of his second child, she said to him, “If it were up to me, I’d write this story differently.”
That’s the natural reaction, isn’t it? To say, effectively, I would make this better for you. Or I would make this better for me.
His reaction to her, however, was anything but natural. He told her a Bible story about a king who was given extra years of life because he asked for them. In those years, he fathered a son who did a great deal of evil.
“Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I’m not saying anything, either way, about anything.”
He’s watching that sea of green rolling in the wind. Then it comes slow, in a low quiet voice that I have to strain to hear.
“Just that maybe…maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”
He’s right. We don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what a different story would hold. So rather than dwell in the made up possibilities of the other story devised by me, one whose judgment I know is less than perfect, I want to take a lesson from this man and embrace fully and trust the story I’m living.
What is that story right now? This weekend, I spent a lovely Saturday in my home. I spent Sunday spinning for seven hours, running for an hour, and enjoying a wonderful home-cooked meal prepared by a friend who cares enough to want me to experience more gratitude in my life. Then today, this holiday Monday, I went for a much shorter bike ride, got to hear my niece play the piano, enjoyed an outdoor gathering with Erin and some great people I’ve met through her, spent a bit of time wandering through Book People, hung out with Mom and Dad and relaxed this evening at home.
There are other things I might have injected into this weekend, if it were up to me. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. It’s up to one much greater than I am. Thank heavens.