There's this strange thing some people do where they end their sentences with "but", i.e., "I'm not a writer but"; "I'm going for a surf but"; "It's so hot but". You have to hear it to believe it. It makes absolutely no sense as the "but" is not said in a trailing off sort of way, rather the "but" bring a sentence to a close.
Somehow this relates to what I'm going to say next but.
I think the expression exemplifies to me the way I can so easily think about my own life - as an observer looking at a strange use of expression, not quite knowing what it means. "What is my life trying to say?" is what I've started to think. It was doing so well until that last word of uncertainty or unclarity or unnecessity. Kind of like the words unclarity and unnecessity - an unsure direction that disqualifies the rest of the sentence from its validity. Sentences of this sort do make sense, they just step on themselves a little bit in the process.
I'm not a "writer", but that's because it would seem I have chosen not to call myself one (… even though it would appear I am currently sitting at my computer on the weekend writing an article). Similar to how I don't call myself an artist despite studying Fine Arts and having my work in a handful of exhibitions.
And I've been thinking lately; if my life was a story, read by others, as our lives kind of are if you think about it, would I be happy with how it reads? Would I want to read the story to my kids? Would it be full of tales of love and bravery and belief? Would I be happy with the things I am and am not calling myself?
If I write down the roles I play in my own life – spiritual being, wife, business woman, filmmaker (the roles that evolve as my story evolves, as will yours) would I perhaps gain the clarity of purpose to call myself the "writer" or the "artist" that I sometimes am?
And more importantly, would I be happy with the character attributes I am expressing as I live out these roles? Yes I may be "lovely" and "enthusiastic" when described by others, but do I want these to be my dominant traits? What do I want to describe myself as? What do I value in the story of my own life? Wisdom, love … resilience maybe?
I used to think that living each of our own stories well firstly involved getting better at embracing who we really are – helped by personality inventories, friends who encourage us to be ourselves, and spiritual gifts courses. I LOVE all of those things and think I always will.
A higher priority
However I now believe that a higher priority is to identify our values and passions, outside of our character. In identifying and even consciously committing to those values and passions, we can deliberately orientate our life towards them. In this process we are not just sitting back observing ourselves trying to gain more self-knowledge which we hope will lead to self-belief, but rather we are actively pursuing the wisdom and words that will describe the passions and values we want to live.
In expressing them to ourselves clearly we can then create courses of action to implement them daily, into our character and actions. We will be writing our own story. And in this story, each day, trial or success, is an opportunity to write a new sentence into that story – towards a story worthy of being read.
A big part of thinking this through is attributed to reading the book Storyline; finding the subplot in God's story by Donald Millar, author of Blue Like Jazz.
I haven't opened his book since deciding to write this today as it is so full of goodness that I'd just want to copy and paste the whole thing. But I really encourage you to read his book yourself. The world is in need of courageous believers ready to fight for victory in the pages of their own story. We are not victims to our own lives, especially not through God, and definitely not through the devil – because he has NO power to define the ending of your story. At the end he is nowhere to be seen or heard.
God has given us a playground to live in, not a tight-rope to walk on through our life. Think on that for a bit and see if you agree …
You can choose to take the "but" off the end of the sentences in your own life. Not the "buts" that come from excuses (although it would be good to do that too) but those that come from uncertainty and non-belief. The "buts" that render an otherwise powerful sentence impotent. Like a fidgety "um so yea" at the end of a great marketing presentation.
I've been challenged by the idea of leadership lately, because I can feel that's what God is pushing me towards. A bit like a King David, I'm courageous enough to kill a lion or slay a giant or two, but not so sure about being the responsible #1 person initiating a new endeavour or ruling a kingdom when it involves others. But all I know so far is that God wants me to be the leader of my own life. I'll start with that. Someone confident in my decisions. Someone with not just Godly self-confidence but with talent-using self-belief.
That's part of what I'm doing within film and community development - my new endeavours - and I wish you the best with yours. You may not be a writer but, you're writing your own story.
Janetta Hayden is a Social Anthropology and Visual Arts graduate from New Zealand, based in Perth with her Design Engineer husband Ryan. Janetta works as Filmmaker and Story Director for The Story Culture, with a passion for Community Development.
Janetta Hayden's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/janetta-hayden.html