Once, I thought I knew it all. I thought my story was sadder than anyone else’s story. I thought my family had endured more than anyone else’s, but that was just our little secret to carry around.
Psh, if only you knew.
And by “once” I mean a million times. This is an easy habit to slip into, this whole thinking you’re the center of the world, thinking you already know the entire story, thinking you’re the only victim out there. Thinking that because of your pain, you’re qualified to comprehend the depth of everyone else’s stories and where they all fit into this far bigger story.
Here’s something that happens as you get older (pushing 30 here, people): you realize that people can change. Hearts can change. The ending of stories are not ours to write.
On the Dig Deep Podcast, we’ve reached the point in Joseph’s story where he finally makes himself known. (It’s the chapter of Genesis I’ve been waiting for.) I can’t wrap my head around standing face-to-face with your brothers who had betrayed you twenty years ago—and choosing to stay quiet. He carefully observes if they have changed their evil ways.
And do you know what he says when he finally reveals his identity? He tells them not to be distressed, not to be angry with themselves for selling him years ago. “…because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
There’s a level of forgiveness that’s hard to comprehend. Because we simply don’t know the whole story.
In middle school, I labored in the kitchen for an entire day preparing my dad his favorite breakfast meal: Eggs Benedict. Sure, it was a Home Ec. assignment, but from what I remember, we did not have to select poaching eggs and whipping up a thick hollandaise sauce. I can still feel the beaming pride in serving him that plate of English muffins, a favorite dish from his childhood.
Fast forward a few family drama chapters later, let’s just say I would not have spent an entire day making anything for my dad. I don’t think I believed in Joseph’s concept of forgiveness and patience for God to reveal the purpose for the mess.
I’ve shared a lot of my family’s story in different ways. And yet, you still won’t ever know the whole story. We have moments that are only meant for us and no one would understand even if we tried.
It’s inexplicable how today, yes, I would gladly spend an entire day making Eggs Benedict for my dad (even though I have not the slightest memory of how to poach that egg or whisk that hollandaise sauce). People can change. Hearts can change.
The ending of stories are not ours to write. We have a God we can trust with the beginning, middle, and end, if we’ll let him have it.
When I read stories like Educated by Tara Westover, one that takes more turns than I thought possible, I’m reminded of the complexity of each family’s story. Even in a memoir of this length and detail, we simply don’t know the whole story. We can’t.
What we do learn is that life is messy and hard and complex. Forgiveness is a different recipe for everyone. A shift in perspective, a surrendering of control, a simple “I don’t, in fact, know it all”…well, it goes a long way.