Providing gospel-centered resources to mobilize the church for global orphan care.

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Don’t Live in an Exhausting Story

by Dan Cruver Published Mar 27, 2013

Telling a great story with your life can be exhausting. Back in November of 2011, when I was on a 15 hour flight from Melbourne, Australia to LAX, I sat next to woman who was working hard to tell a great story with her life. When she first boarded the plane and took her seat next to me, I remember thinking, “Wow, this well-dressed woman looks absolutely exhausted.” You could see the weariness in her eyes and body language. This business woman was exhausted and there was no hiding it.

After only sitting next to her for 15 minutes, I learned why she was so very bone weary.

Every 10 days she was either flying from Melbourne to LAX (17 hour flight) to San Francisco (1 hour 20 minute flight) or from San Francisco to LAX to Melbourne for her job. Every 10 days! I was stunned when she told me this. “How many times have you made this trip?” I asked. “Well,” she answered, “I’ve been doing this for 1 1/2 years.”

“Oh my,” I responded. “Would you mind telling me why you’re willing to do a job that would require such a brutal travel schedule? There is no way I could pull your travel schedule off. I’d wither away relationally, physically, and emotionally. I couldn’t even make that trip every 60 days let alone every 10 days.”

“No, I don’t mind telling you at all. I’m actually willing to do this job because I make a lot of money — a whole lot of money — and for me, it’s worth it.”

It was clear to me that the “great” story this woman was trying to tell with her life was sucking the life out of her life. The plot that drove her personal story was the accumulation of wealth, and she was “paying a heavy price” for the story her life was telling.

A Story Worth Living

As the director of Together for Adoption, I have met more Christians than I’ve been able to keep track of who are trying to tell great stories with their lives for the sake of orphaned and vulnerable children (and commendably so), but are becoming very bone weary in the process.

And the plot of the story your life is telling doesn’t have to driven by an issue of social justice. Most everyone desires to live a life that tells a good story for the sake of others. We rightly want our lives to mean something, to contribute to something significantly bigger than we are.

But . . .

But Christianity is not such much about telling a great story with your life for the good of others as it is about living simply and intentionally within the Story our Triune God is writing. There is only one grand Story writer, and in his grace, mercy, and kindness, he has written us into the greatest Story ever told.

One of the main reasons I love that the Father, Son, and Spirit have written me into their cosmic Script is that our Triune God’s Story leads us into rest, renewal, and refreshment (Matthew 11:28), not exhaustion and bone weariness. Yes (and don’t miss this), we will often find ourselves bone weary as we live out our part in God’s unfolding Story. The particular part of the Story that God is writing us into may, in fact, often leave us weary, exhausted perplexed, and (even) persecuted! But we must not gloss over Jesus’ unqualified claim in Matthew 11:27-30.

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus promises rest to all who come to him; and he doesn’t say that his yoke is sometimes easy or his burden occasionally light. He unequivocally says, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I am often tempted to hear those words of Jesus as a barely discernible whisper and the following words Matthew 16:24-27 as an unyielding shout from Mt. Sinai.

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.’”

Tell me if I’m wrong here, but I think many of us in the evangelical orphan care and adoption movement hear Matthew 11:27-30 as a timid whisper and Matthew 16:24-27 as a demanding shout. Seeing the relevance of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16 to mobilizing Christians to address the global orphan crisis is easy. A hard mission (caring for orphaned and vulnerable children) demands self-sacrificial service. There’s no way around it.

I’ve become convinced, though, that Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:27-30 are more essential to our fulfilling our responsibility “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” than are his words in Matthew 16:24-27. We cannot begin to deny ourselves apart from the rest found in Jesus. Jesus became our rest because he took up our cross for us, denied himself in our place, and rose again from the dead for us. Only that Gospel Word—that rest secured for us in and by Jesus—can empower us for self-sacrificial service. But how many sermons or talks have you heard that primarily use texts like Matthew 11:27-30 (“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”) to stir people up and empower them to care for orphans or to any other self-sacrificial endeavors?

No doubt, there are a truck load of reasons why texts like Matthew 16:24-27 are used instead of texts like Matthew 11:27-30 in the attempt to wake people up to social action, but I believe a chief reason why this is the case is that we fail to see how both texts are part of the same Story that our Triune God is writing. As George MacDonald has so beautifully written, “The secret of the whole story of humanity is the love between the Father and the Son. That is at the root of it all. Upon the love between the Son and the Father hangs the whole universe.”

If we fail to see that the breathtaking and overarching context of Jesus’ command to each of us to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” is the Story of the love that Jesus has eternally shared with his Father, we’ll forever see Matthew 16:24-27 as much more important to awaking people to social action than “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But if we see both texts within the eternal love Story between the Son and his Father, we’ll come to the stunning realization that the incarnate Son could have never denied himself and taken up his cross until he knew the rest of his love with his Father, unless he really knew it.

Story makes all the difference. Let me tweak that previous sentence just a bit. This Story makes all the difference.

LIVE in the Story Events

We believe that the most fascinating and productive people in the world are usually not the ones telling great stories with their lives. Rather, they are the people that simply and intentionally live within the Story that God’s already in the process of telling/writing.

In Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories,” he wrote, “There is no tale ever told [other than the Christian Story] that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.”

A Christian who finds his or her place in that Story and lives simply and intentionally within it is someone who finds rest, renewal, and refreshment, even when the Story hits some rough patches.

This is why we are creating the LIVE in the Story resource website. Our purpose for this new initiative is two-fold:

  1. to help Christians daily rediscover the Father’s love for them
  2. to put a heart-winning theology of adoption at the center of missional living

If you would, spend a couple minutes at the LIVE in the Story splash page. And if you’d like to stay up to date with what we will be rolling out on this new website over the next several weeks, there is a place for you to sign-up.

We hope this new T4A initiative will serve you well.


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