I have some suggestions to help each of our personal stories, written or not, to be good ones. I may not have the track perfectly aligned, but I know I’m close and I think it has lasting expediency. I don’t say that with a cavalier attitude, because it took slow, old me a lifetime to even get this close. First, invite God in to assume His rightful place. You do that by committing your life to Him, asking for His help with important decisions, and continually seeking His guidance. Second, determine what you like to do, what you are good at doing, and what you believe in; that is, assess your talents and passions. God made you with certain unique preferences and equipped you with the specialized skills and the enabling anointing required for your particular calling. Third, keep your eyes open for opportunities along the way. As Vince Lombardi said, “Run to daylight.” God will open certain doors and close others. If you stay in touch with Him, you will be able to tell the difference between the two, and if you make a mistake, He’ll be quick to help you realign. Sometimes you require dreams, prophecies, or visions to jerk your chain and re-center you when you’re far off course. When you’re walking closely with God on a daily basis, the more spiritually extreme actions aren’t required to get your attention. It’s probably a good sign if you aren’t moving from one spiritual goose-bump experience to another. Fourth, and last, be prepared to candidly share your life stories to encourage others; this is called testifying, as in being an open and ready witness to what God has done in your life. The fourth step is paying-it-forward for what you enjoyed within the first three.

This plan may not always be easy to execute, but conceptually it’s that simple. In his cartoon series Pogo (a favorite of mine during middle school), political satirist Walt Kelly stated the plan humorously: “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” By the grace of God, it’s easier to write a successful personal story in America today than it has been throughout previous centuries and in any other country. Dinesh D’Souza said that what is uniquely American is our access to equal rights, self-determination, and wealth creation. America has many haters internally and externally, but he shares that America is not the problem – America is the answer. Dinesh means an America characterized by the capital Cs: Christian, Conservative, Constitutional, and Capitalistic. He is not saying America is God, but that God has blessed America because it honored His biblical and covenantal principles. He knows God is the ultimate explanation. God made America a refuge for the world, especially for the Jewish people. Within that refuge, by God’s goodness, are great opportunities so that we, in turn, may fund the gospel throughout the world and participate in its propagation. That’s the big story. We just need to figure out where our own personal page fits into it.

It is more than okay to wholeheartedly pursue the planning steps I suggested; it’s what He intends us to do. When we do what we were purposed to do and enjoy what we do, we are more creative, satisfied, and productive, and we are all the more effective witnesses to His story. As He demonstrated during the six days when He conceived the universe, creativity and productivity are traits of God. Satisfaction is also His, as further demonstrated on the seventh day when He said, “It is good,” and then rested. God encourages us to rest one designated day each week; adopt this practice and do so without guilt, as it similarly yields productivity and creativity for us during the other six days.

The first third of my adulthood I got the exercise of what I’ve proposed close to entirely wrong; then in the middle third I got it about half right; and finally in the last third I got it spot-on. I can tell the difference; others probably can too. My story was a journey from naïve and unconcerned to auto-pilot liberal to oblivious fence-sitter to sincere seeker to conservative and committed Christian.

I understand there are times when life preparations or our occupations are not fun. We have to guard against confusing worthwhile with easy. We aren’t able to select or to know our story’s ending, but we can strive to stay in the race and to finish well no matter the mistakes and regrets along the way. Sometimes we are offered a do-over along the way; sometimes we aren’t. What we can control is whether we squander the time and opportunity we’re allotted and whether we add to our burden through bad choices. We are exhorted to work-out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Applying that statement broadly to the entire course of our lives, I think it simply means we have been assigned a uniquely personal mission, one that is only ours. In pursuit of it, we’ll have to keep checking with our Great Author and Planner to make the necessary adjustments to our story until we finish and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the rest that is prepared for you.”

Each of our stories is vital and worthwhile. Write your life story with chapters where you go for the gold, make the right choice, climb the mountain, enjoy the big adventure, find the love of your life, finish the race, and act the hero. Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). The end of the journey – the conclusion of our life story – is of more exemplary and eternal consequence than how we started, or about the ups and downs along the way. Strive to finish well!