A View from the Back

I’ve always felt like if you are going to do something, you should go all-in. Not only should you commit to the fullest, you should urge others to jump into the pool, too. I never understood people sitting on the sidelines watching others pull the load.

If your kid is playing ball, you should be coaching.

If you believe in the issue, lead the charge.

If you’re a member, actively participate.

Everyone should be all-in. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Be 100% committed. These have been my mantras and I don’t think they are inherently wrong or bad. What is wrong is the judgment and lack of sympathy for others who aren’t in accord. This epiphany came to me during an innocuous conversation last week.

I was asked to sit on a panel at Emory University to speak to young people who hope to go into medicine. The topic was patient experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Having experienced each of those during our cancer treatment, I was able to elucidate all three positions. One of my fellow speakers was a cancer mom I have met digitally, but never in person, although I have interviewed her daughter via FaceTime.

Before the event started, we were in the midst of a good conversation regarding church and faith when she asked where we went to church. A legitimate question… but it has a trick answer. For the first time in our married lives, we don’t have a church home. Right now, church doesn’t feel right. The two congregations that loved us through Kylie’s sickness and death both worship in sanctuaries that contain stages on which she performed numerous times. To sit through a service at either place is to see her singing, acting, and dancing. We tried for a while and never heard a sermon… we just heard her.

We do go to church – sometimes “homechurch”, but frequently a large church where the sermons are deep and thought-provoking. It’s a place where there are plenty of opportunities to serve, but also contains a huge, packed sanctuary where people can sit in the back and get lost in the masses. I explained that we had always been active leaders who taught and served, but right now we need to blend in the back.

“This should be a lesson to us that everyone at church can be at a different place in their life and have different needs,” my new friend wisely said.

I’m a dense sort. I smiled, agreed, and went on until later in the day when I was alone, something started gnawing at me. That epiphany jumped up and bit me.

You see, for all of those years, not only have I been on my church’s front row, I’ve looked down on the people in the back row – the 80% not pulling their weight. Oh, I never confronted anyone, but I certainly considered them inactive leaches while we pious 20% did the heavy lifting. And now, from my new seat, I realize that while I sat in judgment, there are plenty of legitimate life situations that plant people in the back row. I probably looked down on many helpless and hurting people. Rather than condemn them, I should have been more loving and celebrated the fact that they had the strength to make it through the door.

And this doesn’t just pertain to church. Maybe a bunch of those dads who wouldn’t coach soccer with me or build theater sets felt lost, inadequate, or had issues I couldn’t have dreamed of.

 Wow! This self-discovery stuff is great until you discover you are the one with the problem.




A Pharisee, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22: 35-40 (NIV)







What’s Your Story?

When I was a boy, I was big. Despite my size, I had great hands and a good arm. But none of that mattered when I put on my helmet and shoulder pads because the coach only saw big. I got in line with the boys trying out for quarterback and wide receiver, but he moved me to the offensive line and told me that the only time I got to touch the ball was if there was a fumble. And if there was a fumble, I was only allowed to fall on the ball – never, ever, never, ever, never try to pick it up.

Note the discontented #63 who is not #12 or #88

I remember one game, we were losing late and the coach called a screen to my side of the field. The play developed and I ran ahead to block. I couldn’t see the action behind me, but we kept moving downfield – no whistle, so I kept blocking. As I approached the end zone, something strange must have happened and I saw the ball in front of me at about the 5 yard-line. I wasn’t engaged with a defender at the time, so nature took over and I grabbed the ball and ran into the end zone. An offensive lineman’s dream. I scored the winning touchdown!

Everyone was cheering and crowding around me… except my coach.

At the ensuing practice, my coach yanked my facemask and pulled me all over the field while yelling, “You had one job. One job! Fall on the ball!” I ran suicides for hours and then a drill where another coach would throw a ball and I had to plop on it.

Fair? Maybe… maybe not. But it is a part of my story.


We are all living a story.


I believe stories have power. I believe that a good story, well-told can change the world.


There are five basic elements that a story must contain:

  • characters
  • setting
  • plot
  • conflict
  • them


Let’s take the Bible. It is a story book – a love story between the characters of God and Man, with Satan thrown in as an antagonist. The setting is three-fold: Heaven, Hell, and Earth. And the plot is played out over several thousand years as man demonstrates his inability to achieve holiness. The Old Testament points out continual conflict, usually brought about by the weakness and folly of man. And the New Testament shares Jesus the Savior and his atoning sacrifice as the theme and resolution of the story.

Just like he did in the Bible, God is weaving a story in and around each one of us. All of our stories are different but they will all contain the basic elements of story and they are all worth telling.

Here are seven things experience has taught me about story:

You are not the author of your story – Of course, you have input on the action – often through human fault, weakness, and disobedience. But God is writing your story and mine.

You can alter the plot – Twists and turns happen in stories. If you are dissatisfied with your story as it is being written, consult the author and look down a new path.

There will be conflict of some kind – Conflict is not a potential, it is an assurance.

Your story can be used for good – No matter how unexceptional you think your story is, remember that the author is the preeminent best-seller.

You may not be the main character of your story – For every quarterback on the football field there are five linemen. Just like when I was a boy, I did not get chosen to be the quarterback or wide receiver of my story. I am made to block for a twelve-year-old little girl.

You may not like your story – Loss, heartache, and pain may make your story seem unpalatable. But that doesn’t make it any less your story.

The resolution of a believer’s story will not take place here – For the believer, the story remains unresolved until he or she hears, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Although you are not writing your story, you have three very important roles to play:

  • Pay attention to how those elements that make up your story come together.
  • Decide how your story can be used to benefit others.
  • Share your story as often as possible to help as many people as possible.



Your story matters and deserves to be told.