Stories That Shaped My Faith
My grandpa loves to tell stories. One he tells often is about his dining room table. When he and my grandmother were searching for a house in Kansas City back in the 1960s, they had two priorities—a good school district and a home with a dining room because one of their main pieces of furniture was a dining room table.
They found their desired home near Hillcrest Covenant Church, thus beginning their journey as members of the Covenant, which my grandpa says led my mother to attend North Park University where she met my father. Years later my two sisters and I attended the same university. According to my grandpa, it was a dining room table that set our lives on this path.
The movie About Time tells the story of a young man who learns from his father that all the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time—a gift he uses as he embarks on a journey of life, love, and loss.
I’ve watched this movie a lot, and I often wonder what I would do if I could return to any given moment in my life. Would I do anything differently? Maybe I would go back to my freshman year at North Park and decide to stay on track for a nursing career. Or maybe I’d pursue a degree in writing. Or perhaps decide against a then-trendy pixie hairstyle. Most of us can think of a multitude of moments, ranging between bad haircuts and life-altering choices, in which we might change what we have done.
Recently my faith has felt distant.
But it turns out God has been
paying attention to my struggle.
About Time illustrates that the “secret formula for happiness” isn’t to go back and redo everything to make it perfect. Instead, it is to live life in tune with the wonders all around us. As Tim Lake, the film’s protagonist, lives out a typical day—and then lives it a second time—he follows his father’s advice to live “the first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” He learns what a difference it makes to live with that noticing mindset. He opens up, jokes with a friend, and has a cheery attitude for a checkout clerk.
ecently I decided to spend one entire day paying attention to the world around me. When the wakeup “meow” of my noisy cat sounded, rather than being irritated, I noticed that she meows (albeit a tad incessantly) for my attention because she loves me. As I ran errands, I noticed that the sky was a beautiful blue with clouds that looked like giant feathers in the sky. When I hugged my nephews, I held them each extra close and listened to their speedy heartbeats. And, goodness, I was awed by the miracle of the big, beautiful world that includes both the massive beauty of the sky and the small intricate workings of an individual life.
Like Tim, instead of living inwardly, I turned outward. It wasn’t my own joy but that of those around me that highlighted the day. And ultimately, as the day drew to an end, my gratitude for all that is beautiful and good left me feeling closer to God.
In this life, we have both good and hard days. As Tim says in the movie, “Some days you want to re-live forever. Some days you only want to live once.” But no matter what kind of day it is, we know that God is with us. Jeremiah 29:11 promises that God’s plans for us are to give “a hope and a future.”
It is not always easy to believe this. I’ve had my own struggles finding God. Recently my faith has felt distant. But it turns out God has been paying attention to my struggle. He was noticing. As I wrestled with my questions one Sunday, a member of the worship team at Redeemer Church, our Covenant congregation here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, led us in prayer with the exact words I needed to hear: We can’t change our past or control our future, but we can live in this very moment to the fullest degree, giving our life to God.
In the end of the film, Tim learns, “The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”
I may not be able to travel back in time, but I can choose to be grateful for each moment that has brought me to my life today—living near family, working in the title industry, writing fiction as a hobby, and devoting my heart and time to my three wonderful nephews.
Every moment in our life has a purpose—even something as seemingly insignificant as choosing a home because it has room for a dining room table. These moments are God’s hands on the clay. I’m learning not to dwell on the past or the “what ifs” of life. I’m simply letting go and resting in God—noticing the extraordinary, ordinary moments that God has placed right in front of me.