modern laura ingalls
Ivory is reading a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder right now, and completing research toward the 4th grade study-of-a-famous-person class project and wax museum. Reading through the notes of what she's been learning, I wondered to myself why Laura was famous. There was nothing particularly unusual (for the time period) about her upbringing, other than their nomadic lifestyle, and she had only one daughter to pick up her legacy. I decided that really, the only difference between Laura and any other pioneer girl is that Laura wrote down her experiences.
I was in a conversation with someone today who encouraged me not to downplay what has impacted me. "This shouldn't be a big deal", I explained. "But it is", he replied, essentially. When people around me are over-emphasizing something, I think I tend to under-emphasize those same things in my own life in an effort to compensate for the drama, or to protect myself from hard things, or maybe just to make the world feel safer to me. If people are going on and on about covid, I tend to pretend like having a baby in the middle of a pandemic actually didn't impact my life at all, when the reality is that it did, and I just haven't dealt with it yet. If people are going on and on about the changes in the church, I tend to lightly gloss over my own struggles with it, because somebody has to be strong in it - somebody has to be ok with change. If people are going on and on about self-care and boundaries, I tend to decide that I simply don't have any needs. I realize this is neither noble nor true, but my brain is stuck in that track. It needs to be re-taught a few things, which I am working on.
Laura's story has been inspiring to me as an adult because she shared what was significant and impactful to her, even if she did not have the most unique, or most devastating, or most famous, or most heartbreaking, or most amazing, or most anything story. She just had her story, and she told it. It ultimately has become reflective of an entire time period and generation, and countless lives since hers have been touched by the words that she wrote. I'm thankful she did not downplay her own experiences in self-protection or pride, but instead shared what she did have to offer. I have a lot to learn from that.
Her biography states that "Laura [...] wrote in pencil, on lined school tablets that she bought at the grocery store for a nickel apiece. She wrote when she could, between fixing meals and washing dishes and other housework. Sometimes she woke from her sleep with a sentence or idea in mind." Her work started slowly and it took a long time for publishers to accept it. She developed a more compelling vision for her work over time, and publishers developed an appetite for her work over time, but her immediate purpose in writing wasn't clear from the very beginning. She just slowly, simply began to write down what had impacted her, accepting that they were "stories that needed to be told".
When we accept the experiences God gives us and allow them to impact and teach us, and reach out and share them as He calls us to do, He is glorified in that. I Samuel 17 tells us about an unassuming shepherd boy just living his life in service to the Lord, whose story changed dramatically with one visit to his brothers in the army. David's faith to go up against a giant in the strength of the Lord is one that leaves me in awe for new reasons every single time. But it's not like David set out to be a hero. He just was, because he did what God called him to do.
After the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17, we read the following exchange:
As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
When David lived the story that God called him to, what kinds of questions were people asking? They wanted to know who his father was.
When we accept, live and tell the story that God calls us to, what kinds of questions will the people around us ask? They ask what our background us and they ask about our family... "who is their Father?" Humble, unassuming lives lived in the strength of God point people to Him. But humble, unassuming people do not inherently downplay their experiences. They just understand that they're a small part of a much greater Story.
Or, in the words of Jesus: "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do." (John 17:4)