I call myself a sucker for stories. Stories fascinate me, they always have. String words together to paint a picture and you will get me every time. I also love to tell a juicy tale, to spin a colourful yarn that leaves my listeners strung in suspense as I take my time sprinkling a pinch of salt here and throwing in a bit of garnish there and finally delivering the punch line that leaves everyone in a stich.
Growing up, I had a ready-made audience for my stories in the name of Muthoni, my younger sister who preferred to hear her stories rather than read them. Evening after evening I regaled her with stories of what I was reading which could be anything between African folklore with its man eating ogres and the western fairy tales of Cinderella and the like.
Much as I love stories, there is one story that I have not always liked. And that is the story of my life. I have always half joked that had the Author consulted me, I would have enlightened him on exactly how I would have preferred that story cast.
Take for instance, my name. Some of my memories that stretch between primary and secondary school are of teachers and fellow students asking me what my Christian name is. I off course responded that its Waithiegeni as it is on my baptism certificate. This would be met with baffled looks implying that I did not understand the question as the correct answer ought to have been along the lines of Mary or Jane. When I was younger, I tried to pass myself off as Anne or Irene, the poshest names I knew then but as I grew older off course I had no choice but to carry that big name around with me.
Then there was the matter of where I was born. This became especially pertinent when I went to boarding school where I quickly realized the social agenda was set by girls from urban areas especially those who called the big city of Nairobi home. They determined what was ‘posh’ and what was ‘shady’. And so I embarked on a venture to re-write the details of my story, editing the parts of where I came from, what we owned, the places I had been to make it into a better story, the kind that I wish the Author had written in the first place.
As a University freshman, I came to a turning point in my life when I responded to the call to follow Jesus and this meant that I could not continue ‘editing’ the actual details of my story, replacing the bits I did not like with the ones I preferred. But that did not mean that I liked my story. I always felt that the Author owed me a better story. In a better story, I would have had more gifts and talents, particularly a musical talent would not have gone amiss. As an adult, a better story in geography, for example, would have been a job in Geneva or New York which would read better than Arusha. But even deeper than those superficial details are areas of character that are glaringly lacking or need transformation, mistakes that I have made and dreams that have been unfulfilled or shattered.
Is it a wonder then that the biblical stories I find most compelling or that I identify deeply with are of characters who did not like the Author very much? Consider the third servant, the one of the single talent. When the other servants had finished their accounting, he let the master know exactly what he thought of him. “I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.” This servant did not like his story and he most certainly did not like the author.
Then there was Jonah the prophet. In his mind the Nineveh detail did not flow very well and he preferred Tarshish. His actions eloquently showed that he did not love the story God had written in and for his life.
And so as the curtain went down on 2015 and we stood at the cusp of 2016, I determined to listen more keenly to the story of my life rather than denying and rejecting some parts of it. Dan B. Allender says in “To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future”, “You are a story. You are not merely the possessor and teller of a number of stories; you are a well written intentional story that is authored by the greatest Writer of all time and even before time and after time. I want to accept and own all those good and not so good details of my lesser stories. In this I join God as co-author of my life, to be writer of my future, to shape my life in the direction he outlines for me, moving forward in the plot that God has woven into the sinews of my soul.
All this with the prayer that my story, as that of any of us can help reveal the Greatest Story, the gospel, the story that God is telling about himself.
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