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Andy Frost's book Long Story Short has got me thinking

Share Jesus International director challenges me to shift my focus from my plan to God's

In his beautiful, yet simple, book Long Story Short, Andy Frost combines enjoyable stories with vignettes from his life and Christian instruction to encourage the reader to think bigger than their own life’s journey. He leads us from the narrow, insignificant confines of our own stories without God to the fact that with God our stories are part of a much bigger, better story.

We live in a society that promotes a focus on oneself, but in this countercultural book, Andy urges us to think about and focus on God and His will. He writes: We are still trying to create our own story away from God. We fill our lives with things that have little meaning. Some of us claim the God story but then … live our lives with an air of superiority and never really allow the Father’s love to consume us.” 

As I reflected on this passage I realised how easy it is for me to concentrate on work, study or hobbies and, as long as everything is running smoothly, forget about God and my reliance on Him. Yes, it’s true, I like to feel in control of my life: where I want to go and how to get there. But such ideas must make God laugh at my ignorance in thinking I know better than Him, and Andy’s book reminded me to shift my focus from self to God. 

Writing about Adam and Eve, Andy points out: In essence they wanted to take God’s role. They wanted to take control, to be the very centre of the story. And then I realise that often I, just like them, have made myself the centre of the story.” Reading Andy’s admission prompted me to consider and accept how often I also make myself the centre of the story and how rarely I consider myself part of something bigger.

Andy goes on to observe: Sometimes we avoid asking the uncomfortable questions and skip over the conflicts in our lives.” I agree; this I find so true. As I got deeper into Andy’s story I found myself asking important questions that challenge me: am I following God’s plan or my plan? What is my plan? What is His plan? But, there was a section of the book that struck me even more so, perhaps because it addresses an issue that I have been subconsciously trying to avoid.

There is one mega-canvas that God has given us each a tiny spot on, along with the paint and brushes we need, to paint our story into His.

Andy writes: If God needs you to do something, I strongly believe that He will make it clear to you, if you’re really listening. And if later today an angel does come through your door just as you’re doing the washing up, then be attentive to what God is saying. But if there is no such angelic visitation, then God has given you the ability and freedom to discern what to do with your life.” 

I may not have a road to Damascus’ moment, but, as Andy stresses, I need to listen to what God is telling me through His Holy Spirit as well as people and events in my life, as only then will I be able to find my place in God’s unfolding story’, which is a fitting subtitle for Andy’s book, because it sums up the theme accurately. 

In my view, there are many ways this can be done. When I was younger, the headmaster of my school told all pupils that each of our lives was a canvas and it was up to every one of us how and what we were going to paint. The teacher’s job, he said, was to provide the paint and the brushes. If we take a step back and look at our entire lives, rather than just our education, we should see that there is one mega-canvas that God has given us each a tiny spot on, along with the paint and brushes we need, to paint our story into His. 

Long Story Short is wrapped up in a final prayer asking Jesus to be the author of our life stories. I would recommend this book to anyone wondering what life is all about and what the next step in their life might be. It may not give you the answers, but it provides suggestions of how to approach the questions you have.

Berlind Fellermeier is a volunteer at the Evangelical Alliance, supporting the work of the mission and unity teams.

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