I’m convinced that a steady diet of missionary biographies and fantasy epics ruined me for ordinary life.
But really, though. In elementary school, I read Hero Tales (stories of the greats of the faith) and adventure books, paging through more death-defying situations in a week than even the most quest-prone hero could in a lifetime.
In high school, it was various martyr stories like Jesus Freaks, along with teen Christian living books like Do Hard Things or Make Your Mark that assured me that you, yes you, could change the world. And, of course, more fiction where heroes and heroines lived exciting lives and also managed to be incredibly witty. From Bonhoeffer to Atticus to Bilbo, my heroes were people who went out there and did stuff.
Those were the stories that mattered, biography or fiction. The stakes were high, the choices were hard, and the lines were drawn between good and evil with people standing their ground on one side or the other.
There’s nothing wrong with that, really.
Except the years went by….
And I didn’t change the world.
And my life didn’t turn into a page-turning novel.
And I did some hard things—even some impressive things—and they didn’t make me feel fulfilled.
And most days were shockingly devoid of explosions, hostage negotiations, cryptic messages, or people shooting at me.
If I’m honest, I still feel a little disappointed about this. Most of my choices don’t seem to matter. Most of my days don’t seem worthy of a biography, or even a memoir. Most of my adventures are only daydreams.
This is why I identify with Naaman. Random Old Testament character, a foreign general who did nothing but win…and also get leprosy. When he hunted out the prophet Elisha for a healing, the prophet told him to bathe in the River Jordan, and he would be clean.
And Naaman stormed off, furious, complaining that Elisha should have done some hand-waving hocus pocus, or at least sent him to a cleaner, more dignified river.
His servants called him out on the real reason behind his protests: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
They’ve got you there, Naaman. You’re a glorious warrior, rich, brave, and in charge. You’d have taken any quest, any challenge, to get your health back. But the prophet—and the prophet’s God—didn’t ask you to do that. That’s not going to be your story. He asked you to do something simple. Something humiliating. Something you don’t quite understand.
He asked you to obey.
I understand Naaman’s resistance, even his anger. Sometimes I get angry too, or at least annoyed. Why isn’t my life more interesting? Why don’t story-worthy things happen to me? Why did God not set the stage, arranging dramatic events perfectly around me, so I could be the hero?
You can probably guess the answer: because I don’t need to be the hero. What I need is a little humility.
I need the faith to offer up my little choices to God. I need the wisdom to see the fight against sin as the epic, high-stakes battle it is instead of surrendering early. I need the courage to give God my tired days, my halfhearted efforts, my small obediences so he can use them in his story instead of focusing so much on being the star of mine.
Today I will not change the world. And that is okay, because that’s not what God has called me to do today. Today, tomorrow, the next day, he has called me to be faithful. And that’s what makes a good story in the end.