The Story (an excerpt from The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson)

I first read Andrew and Rachel’s book last year when it was published in the UK (their home country). I loved it. It’s at the top of my list now for books to share with other special-needs parents (along with Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas). I was so excited to see Crossway publish the US version that I emailed them six months before the book came out and offered to do anything I could to spread the word when it released.

Well, it released a few weeks ago and they are graciously sharing an excerpt with you all and giving away a copy! Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll contact the winner on Monday. 

Here’s a chapter from Rachel

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We all long for stories to end with redemption. That’s what drives the stories I love, whether romantic (“I really hope they get together”), heroic (“How on earth are they going to get out of this?”), or whatever. Fictional stories, famous stories, everyday life stories—something in me longs for a happy ending, with all the pain undone and all the suffering redeemed.

When we skip to the end of God’s big story, of course, that’s exactly what happens. The biblical drama ends with redemption, as the hero defeats the villain, gets the girl, saves the world, and lives happily ever after. But in the meantime, riding the roller coaster through the peaks, troughs, celebrations, and anguishes of parenting, I find it easy to forget who the storyteller is and exactly how that redemption will finally come. I have to remind myself that God is the storyteller, not me. And it is his job to redeem it all, not mine.

That’s hard to accept sometimes. When faced with disabilities, particularly those that affect our kids, the temptation is almost overwhelming to create a fantastic redemptive story—one that suddenly, somehow, makes sense of the one in one hundred thousand chromosomal abnormality, or the brain damage brought about by an overworked doctor who arrives late to a difficult birth. We’re designed to search for reason in the seemingly senseless events that torpedo our lives, and we want to make sense of them as soon as they happen. So we set up support groups. We volunteer for charities. We raise awareness. We start foundations, we hold fund-raisers, and we cook things and make things and write things. We rush to explain all the ways in which having special-needs children has, despite appearances, enhanced our lives. We strive daily to make sense of the senseless, so that the pain we’ve experienced will not be in vain. In other words, we write our own happy ending.

But we are not the storyteller. We don’t have the power to resolve the twisted plot and bring triumph out of tragedy. Only God does. And his timing is often very different from ours.

I would love to be able to come to the microphone at the front of church next Sunday and share a revelation that has come to me of why all this has happened, or a sudden character transformation that has come about in me, equipping me to handle each day in a more godly way. Or best of all, a YouTube clip of my two children making a miraculous improvement as a result of prayer, horse handling, art therapy, or drumming lessons. Then, with my newly communicative kids and my ministry to other parents, I could reflect knowingly on my experience—“Ah, so that’s why all this happened. What a relief!”—and enjoy my eureka moment. Even in the very act of writing this book, I’m having to resist the constant temptation to think that maybe this will make up for autism and that helping others will, in a small way, atone for it.

Of course, there is a sense in which this is partly true. Paul says that it is because of our afflictions that we are able to comfort others who have been afflicted, comforting them with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Cor. 1:3–7), and there is true therapy—and purpose—in that. But we are fooling ourselves if we assume that the benefits we experience will outweigh the losses. For some, they might. For us, at least at the moment, they haven’t.

So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save. The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not. I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good, and, as Sam Gamgee puts it in The Lord of the Rings, to make everything that is sad come untrue.20 It’s only when I find my place in the giant story that God is writing and come to terms with its twists and turns that I can lean back in the knowledge that it is my Father’s job to redeem, or make right, all things—not only in our nuclear family but in every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.

I may never have a eureka moment in this lifetime. I may never tell a “Nicky Cruz for the special-needs world” story or get linked to on YouTube or have people in support groups use me as an example of how things can turn around. My parenting life may be a continual journey of struggling, learning, praying, crying, laughing, loving, and trusting, with no dramatic resolution and no end in sight. But that’s why I cling to the Storyteller, and his unbreakable promise to put the world right. In the end, he redeems it all.

Content taken from The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

9 thoughts on “The Story (an excerpt from The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson)

  1. Wow that was a fabulous excerpt! Beautiful thoughts. This book is on my To Read list on Good Reads. I heard about it through The Gospel Coalition. Glad it’s getting spread!

  2. Oh, goodness. I went through three tissues just reading that little excerpt! Thank you for sharing about this book, Sandra! I cannot wait to read more! (With a box or two of tissues handy!)

  3. “The story is not mine to save. The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not. I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good, and, as Sam Gamgee puts it in The Lord of the Rings, to make everything that is sad come untrue” Sometimes the pressure comes from well meaning friends as they tell me things like “I can see him married” “I can see him in a job” “I can see him driving” This I pray for, but they don’t understand the mourning one has to do in order to rectify the reality. Don’t get me wrong I will still pray for healing, but I can no longer handle good meaning comments about a future milestones your children will experience, God willing and mine may not. Love the excerpt 🙂 Gods got this!

  4. It is exactly like the Wilson’s say it is. Letting God have control is a must-do or we will drown in our sorrow.

  5. Thank you for this! Can’t wait to read it!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, am often tempted to find a way to wrap our story up with a big red bow and rewrite the ending to show God’s sovereignty. When my daughter was born she spent almost 8 weeks in the NICU. At the 7-week mark, she had already had one surgery and we were struggling to get her eat enough to go home, knowing that she would be back for her major heart repair scheduled when she was about 4 months. She would get so close to taking enough by mouth that we held out hope that she would be able to avoid having to have a feeding button to go home. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of the hotel bathroom and wrestling with God over whether it was fair for her to need 3 surgeries in her first 4 months. He brought to mind Psalm 139:16 and said that all of her days were written for her before one came to be. I had unwittingly already written a script for her life and needed to give it to Him and trust that His was the right one. Almost 12 years later, I find myself handing the latest version of the scripts for her, for me and for our family back to Him on a regular basis, trusting that He loves us and that His glory will be revealed whether it comes with a bow or not.

  7. Speechless…. Will be for sure getting hold of this book!!!!

  8. I have this book on my wish list! Thank you for sharing this excerpt and for using your online platform to advocate for special needs children and families. I’ve learned so much from you!

  9. Great chapter! I hope I’m not too late to enter the giveaway.

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