Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Defining Your Present With Your Past

What if everything that's happened in your life thus far was to prepare you for today?

I had the chance to sit in on an interview my sister Tracy did with Duncan Phillips, the drummer for the Newsboys last week. He had a lot of great things to say not only on the band, but on living positive and being a Christian. A few of his quotes stuck out to me:

"I look at how much hard work it was [the early stages of the band] and also how loyal and faithful our Creator was through all this. There were so many what-ifs. I look back on it now with hindsight. I can see the hand of the Lord there in various situations. There was no way they could've happened by chance. Looking back encourages me when I look forward. I look forward now with courage because there have been a lot of times in our careers, especially just recently, where it was like, “Oh my gosh, what are we gonna do? This thing's over; we're not getting anywhere.” But the Lord has been good."

Notice his quote, "Looking back encourages me when I look forward". That says something to me today. I daresay all of us have experiences where God has moved in our lives, only we didn't recognize God's hand until later. In hind sight. Duncan continues:

"I know in my heart that He is real. I've seen what He's done in my life over the years. It's one of the great things about being a Christian for a while now - I can look back and see all the incredible things that could not have happened by chance. They happened because of an ordained process that can only come from the Creator, Someone greater than me."

As a writer, I see how true these statements are in my own life. Every experience, good or bad, can be used in my writing. In order to write deeply I need to have something to draw from. I'm turning 30 this year, but the Lord has blessed me with some amazing experiences.

I was traveling the country in my early 20s for our family business and have been in all but four US states. I saw my first bald eagle outside Flagstaff, Arizona sitting high and mighty in a huge pine tree. I helped put out a forest fire on the road up to Estes Park, Colorado. I saw a grizzly bear eating a dead animal carcass in Yellowstone National Park. I've driven down the streets of San Francisco at one o'clock in the morning. I saw the Twin Towers a week before they went down.

The funny thing is, as I was experiencing these things (and many more like them) I had no idea I would need them later in life. But as I write my novels I'm finding myself using these specific details. Just the other night I wrote about watching a hummingbird diving toward a stream, its shrill tweet sounding like a distant policeman's siren. That came from my own life too.

But here's the thing that goes back to what Duncan was saying. We ALL have experiences in our pasts that color our today. What if an experience we first thought of as negative actually developed our character into something that will impact our future? Our ministries?

I don't believe God purposely causes bad things to happen in our lives to teach us things, but I do believe He can help us through them. We can learn from the negative. And maybe we can use the experience in a book someday!

God has a specific plan for your life. He's ordaining your steps even now. Knowing that can change our outlook on life.


Julie Gillies said...

Hi CJ,

Excellent post. I LOVE Duncan's quote and you're right - it's pertinent to me as a writer. I must remember the faithfulness God has already extended toward me. This will help me when things look impossible. Well said, Duncan!

The Newsboys walk the walk. Our family happens to be friends with Jeff Frankenstein' (keyboard player) parents. They're a great group of guys.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Laura Davis said...

Thank you for sharing that. I've been reflecting quite bit on just that topic. When I look back on the experiences in my life, be they good or bad, they have God's hand all over them. Now, when troubles surround me, I am unbelievably calm. Something that I never experienced when I was younger, but thanks be to God, He is constantly preparing me for my tomorrows!

Timothy Fish said...

“I don't believe God purposely causes bad things to happen in our lives to teach us things, but I do believe He can help us through them.”

I suppose that depends on what you mean by “bad things,” but with the way most people define “bad thing,” we had better hope he “causes bad things to happen in our lives to teach us.” If he doesn’t, we are either perfect or we are not his children (Heb. 12:7, Rev. 3:19). The important thing to remember is that all of this stuff that we think is so important now will just fade away when we get into eternity. Yeah, I think God allows some things to happen that wouldn’t have had to have happened if we had done what he told us to, but I think he also causes things to happen. If he doesn’t, I have to ask who took David’s infant son. If we fully understood the mind of God, we would see that the bad things he brings into our lives are for our good. So, yes, he brings bad things into our lives, but it’ll be okay.

Koala Bear Writer said...

My husband and I joke about the twisty paths that brought us together. As you say, it's all clear in hindsight. Even now, as we consider a move and what the next year holds for us, I know that He's working it together, as He has events in our past. Duncan's comments are very encouraging. :)

slkcivil said...

I agree, awesome quote! Well, said. I've recently had several things happen in my life that seem "bad", but I do remember at the lowest of lows thinking that God was going to bring me out of it and use it for a greater good. Not sure what that will be, but there was a calm that came over me even in the storm. And I'm a new writer, so I am thankful to have some things, emotions and experiences to pull from. Thanks again for the wonderful post. I'm new to your blog (and now FB friends too!) and I find your posts very encouraging.