Confessions of an imperfect storyteller
Confessions of an imperfect storyteller
I’m a perfectionist. I like to be able to perform to certain standards so that I can say I’ve done my absolute best, and usually my own standards are much greater than the expectations of the people around me. I really don’t believe that I’m so much more accomplished than other people. I think I’m just outrageously stubborn.
In some cases, being stubborn is a good thing. It can keep you moving forward when you want to quit. It can keep you upright when you feel like falling down. But it can also keep you from asking for help when you actually need it or from taking a break when you’re on the verge of collapse.
I like to do things my own way. I always have. I don’t follow crowds or keep up with fads or buy into the latest fashions. I’m independent, and I don’t ever want anyone to think I’m a mooch or a burden or a failure. I don’t ever want to give anyone the idea that I’m weak, because weak people need help. Weak people can’t do extraordinary things.
Transparency isn’t difficult for me when I’m talking about how much God loves us, but it does become difficult when I’m faced with my own shortcomings. And last week I was reminded vividly how dangerous this desperate desire for my own perfection can be.
It’s not wrong to want to do your best. Heavens, we all need to aim for that. We always need to try our hardest to reach our full potential, to use the gifts that God has given us for His glory. But I can’t just leave it at trying to do my best. I must do my best. Period. And if my best isn’t good enough, that means I’m not perfect.
Have you ever been there? When you hit that wall that reminds you that you aren’t always right? That you haven’t achieved perfection?
Maybe some of you haven’t been there before. Maybe even more of you would shrug your shoulders and exclaim, “Well, duh!” Because it’s common sense. Nobody’s perfect. We say it all the time. But saying it and believing it are two very separate things.
I’m not a perfectionist in mathematics. I’m not a perfectionist in history or science. I’m not a perfectionist in crafts or painting or drawing. Heck, I’m not even a perfectionist at practical skills like driving or cooking or baking. But writing? Oh, boy. Storytelling? Yeah. If I can’t perform as a storyteller, what am I? What good am I? What is the point of me?
That’s my passion. That’s my heart. It has been since I was in kindergarten. And if I’m 32 years old right now and still unable to write a perfect story, what’s wrong with me?
Do you see the flaw in the logic? Yeah, so do I. But try coming face to face with your own passion, that thing you’ve dedicated your life to, and realizing that it won’t ever be good enough and see how you handle it.
I have to come to grips with the fact that I won’t ever write a perfect story. My heart cringes at that admission. My soul hurts to have to say that, because I’m a storyteller. That’s what I do. So why shouldn’t it be perfect?
I already answered my own question. I’m not perfect. But that’s not the question I should be asking anyway. Stories aren’t about being perfect anyway. Stories are designed to speak truth into people’s hearts in a way that simple conversation can’t. Stories are examples and life lessons and family lore and labors of love. You can’t have a story until something goes wrong. You can’t tell a story until the characters screw up somehow. And if your story comes from your own screwed up, upside-down, utterly confused heart, why do you expect it to be perfect in the first place?
This is what I love about God–one of many things–and I was reminded of it at church this weekend. Like a master of restoration who takes a beaten down, worthless junker of a broken down car and makes it new again, God does the same with us. He can take our junk and use it and change it and turn it into something truly beautiful and meaningful. That’s the miracle of what He can do in our lives, and He can do that with a story too.
If you’re in the same boat where you’re beating yourself up because your story still needs work, give yourself some grace. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect for God to use it. My stories aren’t perfect, and they aren’t ever going to be. And that’s okay. They’re works in progress–just like me.