The thing about listening to God is that his methods are not always predictable. Sometimes he speaks in ways that are as unexpected as they are profound. One of those occasions for me came through The Wrong Book by Nick Bland.
Yes, The Wrong Book. It’s a children’s book. A children’s picture book.
It’s the story of a boy named Nicholas Ickle. At least it’s meant to be his story…
Here’s the interactive iPad version wonderfully narrated by Frank Woodley. Please take a few minutes to enjoy the book before you read on.
What I learnt from The Wrong Book
So here’s my grown-up take on this wonderful story. Nicholas Ickle has a plan. This book is about him. Except that all these page-crashers, these uninvited book guests, keep showing up to spoil his plan. And that makes him angry because his expectation of telling his story is not being met.
But Nicholas Ickle is still telling his story, because surely he is a little boy who dreams of elephants and monsters, pirates and puppets. That’s why they came. They may be in the Wrong Book but they show us something of Nicholas Ickle anyway. The book is still about Nicholas, just not in the way he imagined.
Isn’t that what life can be like for us? Our perfect plans for our lives never seem to quite work out that way. All the interruptions, the unexpected people and events that show up in our lives, mess up our schedules and feed our plans through the shredder. We don’t see that they are still part of our story; we only see that things aren’t the way we planned them.
We have a choice though, to embrace the book-crashers in our lives. To forgive the intrusion, to allow them to enrich our story, to teach us new things, to make new friends, to grow, to love. To even be grateful for their presence. Our story is still our story.
And something else…
I noticed how much my thought life, my prayer life, can look like Nicholas Ickle and The Wrong Book. Uninvited thoughts; things I call distractions come in unwanted. Resented even. They detour me away from where I thought I was going. They’re messy or ugly, self-seeking, petulant or just plain off the point.
I don’t want to embrace them; they’re off the plan. I’m angry that my thoughts and prayers have been hijacked. But what if they too are really part of my story? What if they are telling the bigger truth of my story, not just the small, edited, clean version I had planned for myself?
The more I thought about this book, the more I saw the invitation in it. Would I be like Nicholas Ickle, angry and upset? Or would I embrace my story-crashers and tell a bigger story than I’d originally planned?
And later, came the God-whisper:
Receive my presence.
I already love you. Stop trying to please me. Stop trying to earn my approval.
Know that you are loved.
Receive the gift of my presence.
Be open to to all the ways I speak to you.
Look for me.
Make time for me.
Wait for me.
Be willing to let go of the old ways.
Embrace the messy, the unexpected, the story-crashers.
In what unexpected ways is God speaking to you?