Journal entry by Vicki Bunke
Many people consider Ernest Hemingway to be the gold standard for fiction. One of the distinctives of his writing is simple and clear prose. Legend has it that friends, who knew how much he despised flabby and florid writing, once challenged him to write a story using only six words. He accepted the challenge and wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
If you have a pulse, those six words probably stopped you in your tracks. And that’s because stories, even if comprised of only 6 words, are powerful. They are like seeds carrying within them something mysterious, compelling, and potent. That might explain why we love hearing and telling certain stories over and over again.
I was recently asked to share a story. A story I know well – so well that I know each and every single part by heart. But if I am being honest, some parts of the story I don’t really like. In fact and had it been up to me, I would have written some of it differently. Very differently.
Which reminded me of an old church hymn I also know very well. The hymn is “I Love To Tell The Story” which is based on a poem written by Kate Hankey. The poem that inspired this hymn actually had two parts. The first part was entitled “The Story Wanted” and the second part which inspired the hymn I mentioned was called, “The Story Told.”
I find those titles interesting…The Story Wanted and The Story Told. Why? Mainly because in my experience those two things don’t always match up. In other words, the story wanted is not always the story told.
That is certainly true of the story that I was asked to share more than a few months ago at the Swim Across America Summit in Nashville. Along with Dr. Wasilewski, I had the opportunity to share Grace’s story. It was called: The Story of Amazing Grace Bunke. Swim Across America was kind enough to record it and with the assistance of many professionals including one of Grace’s friends, Hannah Aspden, our presentation was put together and can be seen here:
If you watch the video you will see that Grace’s story is not a story about cancer or illness, but rather a story about love and faith and hope. Regardless and despite how much I love to tell her story, it was not the story I wanted. It most certainly didn’t end the way I wanted it to end. No, the story I wanted was not the story told.
At the end of my presentation, I formally announced my plan to honor Grace’s life and memory by swimming in 14 of the Swim Across America open water events in 2020. We even gave my plan a name. We branded it: The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2020. However, due to COVID-19, the plan and tour is officially being postponed until 2021. Again, the story wanted will not be the story told.
I think this year – the year of 2020 – everybody can relate to this idea. The story most people wanted for 2020 is not the story that is being told. The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour is definitely not the only event or experience that has been postponed or changed. But what if we were able to change our perspective on this year and our experiences thus far?
As I watched the on-line Mt Bethel UMC service this past Sunday in my living room with friends, I was struck by Gaylyn Kelly’s sermon and her questions posed at the end. She asked:
What if 2020 is exactly the way it’s supposed to be? What if it’s supposed to be hard and difficult, scary, raw, challenging? What if it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be?
In other words, what if we embrace the story being told and let go of the story we wanted? What if we rely on God’s faithfulness as we remember the promise of Romans 8:28: “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Trust me, I get it. I will be the first to confess that God’s providence can, at times, read like a mystery novel that doesn’t make sense this side of heaven; but in the end, His story line for those who trust Him is always wise, specific, and good. What if we believe this to be true – even when the story we want does not match the story that is told? In my experience, that’s what trusting God is all about. And that is a story I will always love to tell.
“When we leave the pen in His hands we will never be disappointed with the story of our lives.” (Eric Ludy)