Just One Story

       I have never dabbled in drugs. The closest I have ever gotten to feeling high is when I got my wisdom teeth removed when I was 17 years old. I lay in the dentist chair and they fastened a plastic mask around my mouth while my right arm was outstretched. They were trying to find a vein and the laughing gas kicked in while they searched. They thought I would be knocked out in five seconds, but I enjoyed my legal drug for a full, glorious minute.
       As the gas seeped up my nose in a cool wind, I heard the nurse laugh nervously and say, “Well, Kimberly, we are having a little trouble finding a vein here.”
       The needle fished around in my arm but I was busy spinning in mental circles above the dentist chair, flying on an invisible cloud. My lips spread wide and my stomach clenched as I tried to hold in laughter. I spun, spun, spun closer to the lights above until I heard a click and then fell into a deep sleep. My “high” was very short lived.
       In church when I was growing up, I loved hearing stories about people who came to faith while they were in prison. I stared at the mafia members, hardened criminals and street prostitutes surrendering to Christ after years of crime. I admired John Newton’s heartbreaking testimony of how he came to write Amazing Grace. Those raw testimonies were the most exciting to hear and I wondered what it would be like to live a wicked life and then come to Jesus.
       After stories like that, my own testimony of growing up in a Christian home and then coming to faith at four-years-old felt yawningly boring. I almost felt like I needed to do something really bad so that I could be rescued and then have the boldness to tell others what happened to me.
       For Easter this year, Kevin and I were given tickets to see “I Can Only Imagine”, the newest Christian film. Seeing Dennis Quaid’s name on the trailer ahead of time had given me hope in seeing some great acting.
       The film, to me, revolved around Dennis Quaid. I didn’t get to see much of his classic grin until the end, but the way he got into his character enthralled me. I watched his dull eyes bore into his son as he played the character of an abusive father. I stared at his gray stubble, seemingly graying further with each scene. I even admired the way he walked, his right shoulder hunched down sending his entire body fading into a slight hobble. His burnt orange colored shirts didn’t bring out the blue in his eyes. His character was one to be hated and I did gather disdain with each harsh word spit out of his mouth to his innocent son.
       The movie leads the viewers on a journey of redemption and by the end, we get to fall back in love with good ol’ Dennis Quaid. Seeing his smile brought back so many memories to me of great films in the past and I loved seeing him as himself once again.
       I sat in the theater, warm tears strolling down my face because of the beauty in the transformation, the way Dennis drew me in. He held on to my attention and he didn’t let go until I saw his character redeemed. Reformed. Whole.
        As I am learning my craft as a writer, the books, podcasts, and tutorials are constantly teaching me about storytelling. They are preaching that the readers love to hear a transformation in the main character. They crave a drastic change. I think about these things as I write, wondering if I can truly bring my readers through such magical transformation. It seems like such a lofty goal that I struggle to believe I can achieve.
       Despite my insecurities, I chip away at my project. There is a document on my computer that is nearly 30,000 words. It is my THIRD rough draft of my childhood memoir that I have been working on it since 2016. I live and breathe my memories, trying to reroute them from my heart onto the page, and then I wrestle them into place in each chapter. My brain constantly rearranges sentences, themes and possible introductions and endings. I waver from 20 to 25 chapters, then down to 22 as I add and cut, add and cut.
       Mine isn’t a massive transformative story. Growing up, I was a good little girl from the outside and I prided myself on that for a long time. There was a day when I was 19 years old that I felt utterly convicted of that pride. Abstaining from the outward sins but never admitting to inward sins landed me in trouble. I was the epitome of a Pharisee, judging others and pitting myself higher than them on the scale of humanity. I confessed and have tried (often in my own strength) to submit to a love for others without lining up our sins next to each other for comparison.
       My stories in my childhood memoir aren’t about being rescued from prostitution, drugs or an abusive relationship. My stories aren’t radical or that impressive.
       But God’s grace is God’s grace whether He is saving a Pharisee or an abusive father. My sin of pride was just as weighty as any ounce of illegal substance. And my childhood successes, failures, experiences and joys are filled with God’s grace toward an undeserving little girl.
       “I Can Only Imagine” is just one story. The songwriter, Bart Millard, wrote another song years later called “Even If”. He shares with his audience that he wrote it from a broken place about his son struggling with diabetes. Its painful yet redemptive message has resonated with millions.
       One song may tell one story and may even lead to some success, like it did for Bart Millard and his band, MercyMe. But life doesn’t stop after one song. Life is a long battle on this damaged earth and as long as we have air to breathe, we have songs to sing. We have stories bleeding from us that need to be told.
       My stories may not be as exciting as John Newton or Bart Millard. My “characters” may not be as attention-grabbing as Dennis Quaid’s. But stories are meant to be shared and they will be received well if they come from a vulnerable corner of the most tender parts in us.

For More on MercyMe:
I Can Only Imagine Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsMyv9Q4_OU
"Even If" testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25O0FpJja7o
Even If song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y

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