Living the Successful Life

“A foreign army seeks to surround and capture Oxborough Boarding School, the mission of which still remains mysterious, from within and without. Who can Margot and Vivian really trust, or is it every man for himself? Will they successfully defeat the enemy before it’s too late?”

. . .

A heavy, despondent feeling lay over me as I walked the isle of Giant Food last evening. I scanned a row of cleaning solutions on a higher shelf. “God is the author of your story. Do not be discouraged,” I thought to myself, and the monster of discouragement waned. I was able to tell myself this because of the conversations I had had the evening before.

I went to a women’s Bible study. This may seem like a mundane enough event, but if you understood the invisible and the visible dynamics at play you would know that it was the sustenance I desperately needed. For multiple reasons, I had grown discouraged by my life. At the Bible study, I was deeply blessed to be surrounded by so many women with such great faith. During the lecture, a couple comments stood out to me.

One, what do you define as “success?” Is it obedience to God, or the outcome of your actions? The Bible continually points out that the outcomes of a wicked or righteous life do not appear to correspond to what they deserve. However, the story of our lives is shaped by our obedience to the LORD. That is what makes our lives the most “successful,” no matter what suffering our obedience brings or doesn’t bring (and it will bring it on.)

Two, the woman giving the lecture recounted a story in which God led her, despite her obvious trembling and absolute dislike of public speaking, to step forward and share a life story of hers. “I’m never doing that again,” she thought when it was over. But after the service, a man came up to her and thanked her, because until then he had not known anyone who had also shared that experience, and his life was messy and if God loved her then He loved him too. What an honor! Suffering is surely a blessing, because without it (or rather, God’s saving of us from it), how can we relate to others or be an instrument of encouragement to them?

I chatted with a college friend of mine after I came home that night, just at the time when I didn’t really know what to do with myself, and talked about our walks with God and how to walk better with Him. I told her of one or two times I watched clearly and with amazement at how God showed His presence to me through friends, letters, etc. at just the times I needed Him most.

A few days before, on Sunday afternoon, I listened to the September 9th sermon online from Grace Anglican Church in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Starting a sermon series on The Sermon on the Mount, Ethan Magness spoke on the beatitudes. Each of the recipients of blessing (a.k.a. favor) are in a state of suffering. “The ‘losers,’ those who won’t have Wikipedia articles written about them because nobody cares enough to write the article, those who have written books that nobody has read . . .” those are the places where God’s blessing is found: in the lowly, and the things that are not, of this world.

Then he started talking about success. We can automatically equate “success” with “blessing.” “Look how well they’re doing, look how much money she’s making, look at his career, look at his car,” Ethan Magness listed as examples. The blessing of heaven is upon those who are mourning, poor of spirit (which I take to mean feeling the need for Christ), the merciful (of whom people take advantage), those who are persecuted for following Christ.

Because my spirit had been lifted throughout this week, one of the outcomes was that I was able to produce the most concise plot idea for the second book of The Oxborough series that I have ever thought, as given at the top. I’m going somewhere with this! (Yeah, I still haven’t started writing at all even though I’ve wanted to since like May.)

But even so, I’ll need some “suffering” on the way, specifically, criticism. As two great Asian dudes said in a video (The world’s fastest (and most inaccurate) violinist in the world!) on their channel Twoset Violin, “Pretty sure as any artist, if you never get criticism–” “You’re not really an artist.” “Yeah, you’re not growing.”