Randy Hasper“Men lie in their lovers’ arms, but when they tell the truth, they stand up and deliver it from ten feet away.”

That storyline came to me a few weeks ago as I was drafting some thoughts about lying. The sentence might be classified as a truism, as axiomatic, or as proverbial truth housed in a mini-story. It is a story proverb.

The story is about a word man and a word woman who live in a word sentence. They are inauthentic lovers. One night they speak their endearments to each other and stroke each others’ hair and hold each other close. The two are together in that magically exquisite way in which humans who collide may also merge. But, after the “but,” in the sentence, the mood changes. He gets up, because he has kept something from her. He can no longer lie and lie. And then he tells her the truth. He knew she would be hurt and upset, so when he says it, he stands away from her, about ten feet away. It is a relative safe distance from which to wage conflict.

Perhaps he is afraid. Maybe she cries. He paces the room. There is now a moment of expanding distance and pain between them. Then what happens next?

I don’t know what happens next. It’s not in the line. The line is a fiction, an imagined narrative, unfinished so to speak, two acts, not three: love and then conflict, with no resolution. The story is frozen in print, unresolved, but for a purpose, so that it might aptly carry it’s content and no more than that. The content is something like this: Men lie while they lie, and the lie, once exposed, turns close lovers into distant enemies.

That’s life, or life similar.  Life includes lies and the story lines that follow those lies and a lot of pouting and crying and throwing things. But that’s not all life offers us. The narrative of  real life, a life still being lived, is different from a frozen, proverbial  narrative. A real, ongoing, present-tense story, like each of us is living, is not frozen or stuck in a sentence with a limited meaning and freighted with unresolvable conflict. Life, thankfully, is still malleable, and pregnant with a multi-stranded hope for more.  The life we are each currently living, while it is made up out of the multiple narratives of the past, loosely braided together in our minds, that life is yet still  capable of being further braided into something new.  We aren’t done, like a sentence penned.

Each one of us have options to live past our former storylines, to write a new sentence, to write new pages and even volumes if we will. What I am saying is that life includes redemption. Life includes second chances. Life offers us opportunities for rewritten endings. This is what God gave us when he made us like himself and gave us life — the power to story something good, even after something bad.

I believe that, because I’ve seen it and lived it. And I take from this, that it is my responsibility and yours to take the current pieces of our narrative and make some sense of them, to bring some kind of resolution to our conflicts where we can, even if it is only within ourselves, and to carry on with us our frayed and broken strands if we will, and weave them into something else. We can yet take up a thread of the old and braid it into the pattern of the new.  We can yet make choices to act out where we want the story of our lives to go. We are not frozen in words that do not resolve.

If there is a secret it can be told. If that creates conflict, that can be talked about. If there is pain, and brokeness, that can be healed, or learned and recovered from, even redeemed in perhaps another relationship. For instance, real people, who have “lied” in their lover’s arms, may eventually come to say, “I have learned from secrets kept in one relationship, not to keep them in another.”

I spoke to a woman this morning who said to me: “I am blessed that I have a mental illness and that I have been so physically sick. I am not happy about it, but I am blessed, because without it I would never have known God.  I know that if I had been rich and healthy, I would not have known God. ” This is shocking language, sure to unnerve some people, and yet look at how she is telling her story, making sense of it, stranding it into something good even in the center of something terrible. She is bipolar, and yet she is unipolar, focused when possible on a good narrative that she is struggling so bravely to write.

We are, each one of us, with God’s help, the novelists of our own lives. It is our responsibility and privilege to write a good story that moves toward order and understanding, to exert strength, to be human, to embrace the whole of it, loss, pain, sickness — health, gain and pleasure. All of it, taken as a whole,  makes sense, says something, defines what it means for us to be alive.

Story on.

You aren’t done.

There is no sentence in your past that you can’t rewrite in the future.

You are responsible for the ending of your own story.

Just write it.

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