Not surprisingly, given they have me as a mother, my girls love books. We have shelves full of them at home and still go to the library to borrow others every fortnight. One of the favourites that always seems to be borrowed if it’s on the shelves is called ‘The Wrong Book’, hence I’m pretty sure all three of us can quote it. Word for word.
It’s about a boy named Nicholas Ickle, who is trying very hard to tell a story. Dressed in his top hat and suit, he begins proudly…
“My name is Nicholas Ickle and this book is about—”
Only he gets interrupted. On every page.
First an elephant walks by. “This book is not about elephants! Go away. You’re in the wrong book!” Then a couple of monsters. “This book is not about monsters! Go away. You’re in the wrong book!” Then everything from a puppet to a flurry of rats to a queen and her entourage. Poor Nick tries to hold it together, telling them to go away before patiently (and then not so patiently!) beginning again with his introduction, but to no avail. My girls think it’s hilarious.
I found myself sounding a lot like poor Nicholas Ickle last week.
My youngest daughter had been sick with a vomiting bug the previous day and though she was definitely on the mend, I was still lying in bed, late at night, worrying. I was trying to pray, and I’d been doing pretty well, until the doubts started creeping in. My prayers went something like this…
“God, I know you’re with her and you’ve got it all under control and I can trust you with her while I sleep and you know how much I desperately need sleep right now and … what if she throws up again while she's sleeping and chokes? What if I’m too tired from being up with her last night and don’t hear her cry? No, you’re being silly, Hannah. God’s got her in his hands and he’s got you as well. You know you can trust him. Yep, I can trust him. Definitely trust him. Thanks God. I’m going to sleep now. Oh, but what if….?”
And around and around I went. Totally trusting God. Totally freaking out.
It took me a little while (okay, maybe it was a long while) to realise that it was my exhaustion which was causing all the trouble. I didn’t usually have trouble trusting God. I was just tired. And, of course, being tired just makes everything seem a hundred times worse than it really is. She was fine, had been all day. I needed to stop stressing and go to sleep.
It was then that my ‘prayer’ started changing – and sounding strangely similar to Nicholas Ickle.
“Go away doubt! You’re in the wrong life. Go away fear! You’re in the wrong life…”
It made me wonder how many times I let doubt, fear, bitterness, lies and so many other things like them stop my story when I, like Nicholas, should be telling them to go away.
How many times have I let fear stop me from doing what God asked? Or let doubt make my decision rather than faith? How often do I listen to the lies the devil tells me rather than God’s truth?
There’s nothing wrong with fear or doubts. Fear can drive us closer to God as we lean on his strength rather than ours. Doubts can drive us to a deeper faith than we ever thought possible. But when I let them stop me from living this story God is writing in my life, then it’s time to tell them they’re in the wrong place. Physically put a name to what’s stopping us from living God’s story and tell it to get out of our lives.
Nicholas Ickle never got to tell his story. The book ran out of pages before he did. But, unlike Nicholas Ickle, our stories are still going and we have the chance to choose what we let in and kick out of them. It might not be easy (doubts, like elephants, can be pretty hard to move) but it’ll be worth it.
Because God has given every one of us a story worth telling.