Life is quick like a vapor, it says in James, all of us steaming up and wafting away into thin air with only an anecdote or two to leave behind. We want to rush through, be busy, get the stuff, do the things, and we rarely think about the stories we leave behind until it’s a pressing matter, as if we all will be afforded the time to reflect before we die.
All of us will go in a heartbeat.
The memory of the righteous is blessed (Proverbs 10:7), and maybe they’ll say nice things about us when we’re gone. We might spend a few years really working on that short story and editing and rewriting and scratching out whole lines of living words, hoping our posterity will remember us best and forget our worst, but we are too little devoted to living this small life right now, full of mistakes and heartaches and victories.
There are obvious outward battles, but we are afraid of whittling away at our plowshares to fight those inside jobs—insecurities, selfishness, gluttony.
Do we think a good story has only superheroes and bad guys?
We should tell true stories while we’re living, about our living. Even if we’re less like heroes and more like normal people.
This is how to tell a short story: start with the ending and let the details fill in accordingly.
Know where you’re headed with your one short life and let that keep your story in perspective. Then tell your life as it happens and retell it as you learn more. Keep editing, but truthfully. Keep reviewing, but hopefully.
Tell the story where you meant to do well but you did the easy thing instead. Tell how you repented, how you forgave, how Jesus took back ground you’d lost, how all the things you want to do are always forever in opposition to the flesh you have to kill everyday.
Tell about your struggle to surrender your life and its circumstances.
Tell about your starvation, that flesh crying out, the temptations parading before you.
Tell about how you grumbled and complained and served anyway, and maybe you lost your joy but learned some discipline in the meantime. All short stories take discipline.
Tell about the beautiful ordinary things like frozen spiderwebs and a good night’s sleep, the perfect mingling of coffee beans and water and cream, the verse you read this morning and how it came back again and again through the day, and the way that person you love looked at you before they had to leave.
Tell all the little things. Watch them add up. Don’t get lost in the devastation of big things because there are far more tiny details to a short story than one or two main events will tell.
Tell the full story because God is always working surprises in and that’s where the glory is—not in your strength or ingenuity, not in your careful planning or wisdom, not in the way you did everything right.
Don’t purpose to tell the whole world. Tell a select few people your great short story and let it become part of theirs.