“We need to know that love is real, that it endures, that a world of love is planned for us and waits for us, and that we can count on it.” John Eldredge, Epic, p. 26.
As I think about writing my life story, I know that it begins long before my birth. So much of who I am is linked to all the family that preceded my coming into the world. Especially my parents. Over the years, as I was growing up and even now after both parents have been reunited in heaven, I learned more and more about their lives.
My mother, Jane, was the daughter of Clara and Austin, and had an older brother. Living on Chicago’s south side, her childhood was one of sidewalk games, going to the Methodist church, and a circle of close girlfriends (who together sneaked away to visit the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair). She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. Still in her early 20s, with World War II calling men into the armed forces, Jane became the manager of a local Jewel (the Chicago version of Kroger) store.
My father, Willis, was the son of Lydia and Arthur, and had two younger sisters. Raised in Rock Island, Illinois, his childhood was one of home chores (trimming wicks and filling kerosene lamps), fishing with his father, school, and church. He played the bassoon well enough to get a partial scholarship to supplement his savings from a series of part-time jobs to enable him to be a “commuter” student at Augustana College—the first in his family to go to college. A graduate assistantship (tutoring first year Spanish students) enabled him to earn a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois. Passing his CPA exam with flying colors, Willis moved to Chicago to begin work at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm—a career that lasted until his retirement.
Willis and Jane didn’t meet in Chicago, but at a Lake of the Ozarks resort where both went on vacation with friends. There, they found that they lived in the same apartment building, but entered through doors on different intersecting streets. Love blossomed quickly, but Willis’s entry in the Navy postponed their marriage until the end of the war.
Their marriage, in many ways, was a composite of every 1950s family sitcom. Willis commuted to work from their suburban home in Westchester, and was a model active citizen—serving on the local school board and as Sunday School “superintendent.” Jane was a housewife and volunteer extraordinaire—Girl Scout leader, school room mother, volunteer at the local VA hospital, Sunday School teacher.
Throughout their marriage, their devotion to each other, their daughters (my sister and me), and God was palpable—never more so than the last years of their life together when Willis lived with Alzheimer’s.
Like the Epic Story John Eldridge describes, my story has a golden past bathed in love. Once upon a time.
"For God has, may I remind you, set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11)." - John Eldredge
My mom recently gave me a stack of letters that she had written to my grandparents, her parents, during her pregnancy with me and the first year of my life. My grandmother had kept them, and when she passed away, Mom retrieved them back. Each one was lovingly written in her beautiful, careful script, full of excitement and preparation awaiting my birth, and when I came the day after Christmas, full of unconditional love. Reading and handling each one gives me a sense of belonging. I was waited for and wanted. Loved and cherished. I wrote a poem after reading the first one:
|Mom about 5 months pregnant with me in 1966|
It was only days
until December 25th, 1966,
I was supposed to be born.
Festive lights twinkled
on Baker Avenue,
I was waited for,
with a clown lamp,
and my mother sat in the
rocker and imagined
2:00 am feedings with
its 25 watt bulb,
dim and peaceful.
A scotch pine stood watch
in the balcony window,
and unfallen snow
weighed heavy in the
steel gray clouds,
for a white Christmas
and a baby
How blessed we are when we're wanted and loved. The decorations in my nursery were picked out specifically for me, baby clothes bought, washed, and folded into drawers, a lamp placed by a rocker for late night feedings. My story began before I was even born, and it was full of love. Amazing.
Not everyone was as fortunate as I, though. Some children are born into broken homes, poverty, abuse, already addicted to drugs, or are unwanted. Not everyone begins life with a decorated nursery and parents who love each other and await to love their children. Regardless of whether or not your Earthly parents awaited you with loving anticipation, you can be assured your Heavenly Father did; once upon a time He knitted you together in the womb, loved you before and at birth, and He loves and awaits you now, carefully preparing a place for you in Heaven. The lamp is already on.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1: 1-2 (NIV)
1. Consider this second “In the beginning” scripture:
a. What is the apostle John describing in these verses?
b. What does this passage say about “the beginning” of the Story?
c. What does the passage say about God?
d. For starters, what did this chapter in Epic stir up in you? New thoughts, questions, an “ah ha” moment?
2. The Triune God is ultimately relational. Our origins are relational, and this is why we are relational, for we are created in His image. What does it mean to say that we are relational? How does that help your understanding of the Trinity?
3. On page 24-25, John writes about the feeling of belonging when he visits his grandfather’s ranch. Tell a story about a time when you felt you belonged to a larger story.
4. How have you felt the longing to belong in your life—both in your youth and today?
5. One of the realities of a Larger Story is that Life is not all about you. You’re precious, important, and valuable; you have a crucial role to play. But this story is about something bigger than you. How does that make you feel?
6. Have you thought of God as being part of your story this week? How? Conversely, have you thought of yourself as being part of God’s story this week? How?
SOMETHING TO PONDER
Continue to fill in the various seasons of your life with the good as well as the painful memories you’ve experienced through others. Include those times you were invited up and into some unfolding fellowship (or the times you wish you had been). Add those memories to the story you began to write last week.