Last week I spent a few days in London, and one of the highlights was going to see Matilda The Musical, based on the book by Roald Dahl. It was an amazing performance, but one particular part has stayed in my mind ever since.
Matilda has a bad start in life. She is extremely intelligent, but born into a family who fail to appreciate that, and constantly look down on her and belittle her. In the song “Naughty” Matilda reflects on other characters who have been victims of their stories: “They never stood a chance; they were written that way,” and she determines that she is going to be different. She is going to change her story. I’ll include a video so you can get the full effect of the song, but here is the part that has been stuck in my head ever since:
“Just because you find that life’s not fair,
It doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
You might as well be saying you think that it’s ok,
And that’s not right!
So if it’s not right,
You have to put it right!
But nobody else is going to put it right for me.
Nobody but me is going to change my story.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.”
In the musical, Matilda goes on not only to change her own story, but also to change the story of several others because of her willingness to stand up and fight against things that are not right.
In many ways she’s a great example- she refuses to be a victim of her circumstances but is determined to rise above them- and it’s an inspiring story.
But it also left me thinking that it’s not so straight forward in real life.
I think in all of our stories there are probably parts we’d like to change, but there are so many areas where we are just not in control. Illness, accidents, difficult family situations, tragedies… these may be part of our story and there is nothing we can do to change that.
And if we’ve been stuck in a story where, like Matilda, we’ve been treated badly as a child, it’s unlikely, in real life, that we would have the strength and confidence to stand up against it as she did, or even have the awareness in the first place of it not being right.
But fortunately, I also disagree with Matilda on one important point- her declaration that “Nobody but me is going to change my story.”
I like how The Message puts 2 Samuel 22:25: “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”
I realise we’re getting into complicated territory here because the Bible also says in Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” I don’t want this post to turn into a discussion on predestination and free will because there are lots of other people far better equipped than I am to deal with that.
But God is writing a story and within that are each of our individual stories. Ultimately God knows where the story is going and how it will turn out, but at the same time we have a choice about whether we let him write the story, and about whether we step up and play the part he is asking us to play.
When we accept that God is in charge of the story- that he is the author- it’s as if our story changes. The events of the past don’t change, but the direction of our story does, and we find ourselves in places we would never have expected. Often we also see how God can work good even from those difficult events in our stories.
If you consider some characters in the Bible, their stories could have ended very differently if they had not decided to let God be the author.
Joseph would probably have spent the rest of his life working as a slave in prison. Instead he rose to power as governor of Egypt and saved the lives of a whole nation.
Moses would probably have lived a quiet and uneventful life as a shepherd. Instead he led the Israelites out of slavery and into freedom.
Zacchaeus would probably have spent his whole life seeking money- growing richer and richer as a tax collector, while being hated by everyone he cheated. Instead he changed his ways, became generous and put right the wrongs he had done.
No matter what direction the story is heading in, there is always hope that it can be changed, that things can be turned around, that the ending can be different.
None of our stories are going to be perfect in this fallen world. There will still be difficult and painful aspects to our stories. It doesn’t mean every situation is going to end happily. We don’t have Matilda’s power to put everything right.
But fortunately, by sending Jesus, God has already done everything that is necessary to change the direction of all of our stories. I’m glad we don’t have to do it by ourselves- I know that when I’ve tried to change the direction of my story by myself all I have done is make a mess. But if we give God the pen and let him be the author, we know that, despite the twists and turns in the plot and the trials we face along the way, the story is going to end well.
In fact, no matter how well or how badly our story began, we are headed for the ultimate happy ending!
And if you’d like some more happiness in your story today, I’m pleased to announce that Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book “The Happiness Dare” is available to purchase from today! I have loved being part of the launch team for this book and would definitely recommend it. I wrote some more in a post here, you can take the free Happiness Style Assessment here and you can order the book here (UK) or here (US).