The next chapter of your story

By James Willoughby

I had a weird dream the other night. Actually, I don’t remember much of the dream, but I woke up with a weird phrase in my head — “Change the font.”

It was one of those fuzzy dreams where you aren’t sure exactly what was happening or who was there. But to the best of my recollection, I was attempting to give someone advice about life. Someone was struggling with something, and my advice to “change the font” was my way of telling them they had the power to change their story.

Actually, I wasn’t telling them to change their story so much as I was telling them to change where they were putting the emphasis in their story. I didn’t tell them to change their words, because frankly sometimes chapters of our stories get written for us.

But the dream-me, who is apparently much more profound than the awake-me, was suggesting that we have the ability to change where the emphasis lies in our story. We get to choose which parts of our story we put in bold and what we highlight. And though some chapters are written for us, we have the opportunity to contribute the next chapter of our story as well.

I think this dream may have stemmed from a tragic chapter that’s recently been written in my life and the lives of those I love. Three weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away very unexpectedly at the young age of 59. Her passing has left a large hole in this family, a hole that right now is filled with pain, anger, sadness and more questions than answers.

Over the past decade, I’ve logged more hours funeral homes and have filled more tissues with my tears than I would wish upon anyone. And despite having endured so much loss, I still can’t muster the right words to guide others through such tragedy. I simply can’t explain why a benevolent creator doesn’t intervene, why good people go to soon and wicked still walk among us.

It doesn’t seem fair. It isn’t fair. These dark chapters are thrust into our stories without warning and seemingly without reason. And as much as we may want a rewrite of portions of our story, we cannot.

Often we are stuck with stories of loss, pain, betrayal, injustice, abuse and infidelity. Miserable, life-sapping seasons befall many of us. Several of our stories have taken a turn for the worse.

But have you ever noticed that the best stories all have a crisis or conflict in them. As an English major, I learned that every story needs a crisis or trigger, something beyond the control of the protagonist/hero which ignites the story.

Every hero in our world, both fictional and real, has dark chapters in their story that they have overcome. That’s what makes their story great — overcoming the darkness.

Now it’s one thing to read about pain in others’ lives and a whole other thing to actually live through it. But those of us who have found ourselves in the middle of a dark chapter that we didn’t ask for have the opportunity to turn that darkness to light. We can not only change the font, but we can change the course of our narrative.

As horrible as it may seem in the moment, we have a chance to show the world a story of rebirth and of overcoming adversity. The pen gets handed back to us for the next chapter, and we have the opportunity to become a hero with a story worth telling.

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.