31 Days: Listening to Lessons from The Wrong Book

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 grace.
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 life.
Embrace love.
Embrace the messy, the unexpected, the story-crashers.

In what unexpected ways is God speaking to you?

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 26 of the series 31 Days to Listen. Visit Write 31 Days to see what hundreds of other writers are posting for this challenge.

In the Middle of the Mess

Have you ever had a good friend show up at your door unexpectedly, when you’re in the middle of a mess, unprepared for visitors, and it turns out to be just what you needed at the time? I had one of those moments today with God.

I was in a frenzy at work, searching for an important item, and unable to locate it. I was on the verge of getting seriously worked up about it, thinking I had misplaced the item during my frenetic activity of the previous day.

It finally occurred to me that I should pray about it instead of hitting the panic button. After all, God knew where the item was, so it made sense to ask Him. Why does prayer often seem to be the last resort we turn to instead of the first?

I hadn’t done much more than say “Lord I need your help”, when I felt him say, “Stop, and listen to me.”  Easier said than done, as I discovered. When I’m anxious about something or feeling driven by deadlines or outcomes, stopping seems so unproductive, even when it may actually be the best thing to do.

But when I did stop and listen, I was prompted with a place to look. And suddenly, the lost was found.

I find it so easy to be caught up in the busy-ness of life and unintentionally exclude God from what I’m doing. I’m grateful that he showed up in my mess like a good friend at my door, and sorted me out. It encourages me to look for more opportunities to connect with God throughout the day, to listen for his wisdom and guidance  … even before I get myself into a mess.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net