In the middle of his alcoholic days, my dad didn’t go to church with us unless it was a holiday or special occasion. So when my mom, sister and I would leave, this is how he would spend his Sunday mornings.
When they leave for church, I open a beer, read the paper, and crank up the stereo. Sometimes with a few beers in me and the music loud, I stand and talk in a loud whisper. I catch myself acting like a teacher, talking and intellectualizing on things in the news, or politics, or sports, or music, or other things my mind randomly latches onto. Sometimes, in some foggy way, I see myself doing this explaining and persuading out in the future. Then I have another beer. I vacuum and wash the dishes so I don’t feel totally useless. I take a nap. They come home from church. This becomes a normal Sunday morning.
He didn’t know why and he couldn’t explain it. But it was in him to speak out. That was 25 years ago. Today, he is an announcer on the radio. A believer in Jesus. A teacher at church. A mentor to couples. A small group leader.
All my life, characters have been following me around, waiting for a starring role in a story I haven’t yet told. Last week while in South Carolina, there they were again, hiding in the Low Country shadows of the oaks with their mossy-grey profiles. Still, not one of those characters are clear to me. It’s as if I’m surrounded by a smokey cloud of faceless witnesses. The fog is thick with story but I can’t see a thing. And so I wait. It isn’t time to tell their stories yet anyway.
Art does that. Sometimes it follows after you so hard and so loud that you look around to see how everyone else is reacting to this most obvious explosion of creativity happening right here in this room. It is bright and tangible and full. But other times, it speaks of future, not yet things to come. It whispers for us to prepare so that it isn’t so surprising when the story shows up one day, demanding you to tell it or to live it, ready or not. The Spirit of the living, loving God speaks into our lives and offers us shadows of things to come, blurry and unclear. But no less real.
He weaves His art into the very fiber of our being, so close that we can’t not have at least some hint of it, even if we are drowning in addiction, blind to the truth, hardened by unforgiveness, paralyzed with fear. My grandfather was a rather unhappy man in his living days. He was an alcoholic too, but his story didn’t end so well. He stopped drinking only a few years before he died and he never grew into his potential. He encouraged me in my writing as a young girl. I think he may have seen something in me that he recognized in himself but couldn’t quite touch. There were shadows of his design, whispers of his giftedness that I’m sure spoke to him in some way, but his demons drowned them out.
Maybe you are drawn to the people and culture of another country but you can’t explain why. You bring your camera to every wedding because you can’t not take pictures of the bride. You write for free and it should feel like a waste, except that it doesn’t and you don’t have an answer for it. You stare at your living room and imagine ways to make it better, and then you do and it changes your mood. It should be silly, except it isn’t.
And so when you hear the whispers, One day, there will be fiction. Children. Teaching. Speaking. Love. Writing … don’t ignore them. It doesn’t mean that things will turn out exactly as you think. They won’t. But I do believe God fully provides for us in the present while at the same time, faintly hints about the future. And sometimes, as He moves in us and around us in the moments of our day, He nudges us in whispers and desire towards something He has for us later.
It’s why an alcoholic who isn’t even a believer can stand in a room and pretend to teach and not know why. It’s not because he had an idea that he would like to try that out one day. It’s because teaching was woven into the fiber of his being when he was knit together in his mother’s womb. We — a people with a full capacity to love and learn and teach and create and live — we did not just happen. We were made by design, and that design is held together by a Person. And his intention for us is beautiful, hopeful, and filled with delight.
What are the whispers of design saying to you today?
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