Happily Ever After

"I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I will always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me, through Christ to life." ~Philippians 3:13-14

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time.

Three years ago, back in 2009, I went with another scout from my troop to the National Leadership Seminar that Boy Scouts puts on across the country. Neither of us were super excited to go. I had earned my Eagle Scout already and this other kid was expected to get his the week after we returned. It was the last thing we wanted to do. We just didn’t want to be there.

Come Sunday, as the course wrapped up, several things had changed. We were both completely awestruck and excited by everything we had learned. We were both fired up and excited to stay involved with Boy Scouts and learn more about leadership. Also, I now considered this other scout one of my closest friends.

Over the past three years, we have stayed involved in Boy Scouts. For the past year, I’ve served as the top youth leader for the Denver Metro Area, and Bryan recently took over as the top youth for all of Colorado. Back in July, Bryan and I were invited to join the National Training Committee as part of the staff. This weekend, we will be leading the National Leadership Seminar, which is once again in Estes Park.

The story has come full circle. This is where our story began and it’s where it will make it’s end. As my contract with the Boy Scouts comes to an end in December and a new young man prepares to take my place, Bryan and I recall with teary eyed nostalgia how much the event we dreaded, totally changed our lives. And yet, it’s a happy ending and a very fulfilling story.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t seem to work out that way all the time. Our narratives don’t always come full circle. Happy endings aren’t part of reality. Sometimes we find ourselves saying “This can’t be real” or “I didn’t ask for this” or “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.”

Perhaps one of the best biblical examples of this is the story of Joseph from the Old Testament (the one made famous by the Andrew Lloyd Weber play.) Joseph had big dreams and was sure that he was going to rise to greatness. Yet his brothers sold him into slavery, and he was then arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. In the play, as Joseph sits in jail, he sings the words, “Close every door to me/ Keep those I love from me/ Children of Israel/ Are never alone/ For I know I shall find/ My own peace of mind/ For I have been promised/ A land of my own.”

It’s quite a prayer. Joseph prays for more pain, knowing that someday things will get better.

This runs countercultural to most pop-psychology and modern day healing approaches. As I perused a few “self-help” books in prepping for this devotional, I found phrases like, “You are the master of your own destiny” and “You are responsible for your own joy” and “Fulfillment is yours, just break free of imposed tradition.”

While I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with choosing to rise above your situation, I honestly don’t believe it’s that simple. The problem with these statements is they imply that life is certain and in your control. Aside from the proverbial death and taxes, I think anyone who has lived more than about two minutes knows that certainty and control are things of fairy tales.

The reality is, life is so interwoven, complex, and transcendent—we could never hope to control it. But God does. God has planned out a magnificent narrative that started in a garden, built up to a cross, and continues in our lives today. In Jeremiah 29:11-13, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you...they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me whole heartedly, you will find me.” That’s why when Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) he was inviting us to be partners in the writing process. In truly trusting and relying on the One who wrote history, we can help pen a story filled with happiness and fulfillment.

This doesn’t mean we get the happy ending we want, but it means that God will give us more joy than we could have imagined. Just look at how Joseph’s story ended. It wasn’t what he asked for or how he thought it should be, but he eventually finds himself an assistant to pharaoh, a leader of many people, and reunited with his family. God kept his promise, that no matter what plot twist our life may take, HE will always make it better.

“Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is.” ~Virginia Satir

Zach Herzog

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