Special Note: Today I am taking part in a blog series on Prodigal Magazine. You should check out the other articles from a list of incredible bloggers. You can submit you own article there as well. Just visit: prodigalmagazine.com/living-story
You know, the biggest difference between a journalist and a storyteller is their attitude toward finding the rest of the story. Just like the difference between a writer and a would-be writer’s attitude towards revisions.
For the majority of my career in TV News, I walked a tight robe dangling above the mass media complex doing things differently, avoiding the typical; in search for the real. To buck the norm, I started writing and editing the middle of story first in hopes that it would allow me to answer this question “how can I allow the audience to leave with a lasting impression?” I would go so far as to wrap adventure, romance, and humility into all of my stories.
Line by line. Shot by shot. Graph by graph. Sound-byte by sound-byte.
I did this to suspend disbelief to follow the hero of the story and how they triumphed over unambiguous antagonists from city council or Capitol Hill.
I became very good at it. I wasn’t playing with plot gimmicks tricking viewers into something other than fact or what played out in front of my lens. Rather I wanted the audience to see the beauty of humanity, see the extra-ordinary in the ordinary, and to leave people thinking.
Since 2005, I’ve been left thinking about a change in my story. I was at my zenith. Traveling the world, leading a great group of photojournalists, my news division had rocketed from being an after thought, to being among the best staffs in TV for storytelling.
Things were good as the cobblestone line streets of Rome were barely lit by the sun as it set set behind the stone plaza known as St. Peters Square. Shortly after sunset the narrow entry-ways into the square became clogged from people gathered as the Basilica bells tolled. The papal apartment sealed off as mourners fell to their knees. Standing there, you could not help but turn your eyes to the heavens knowing Pope John Paul had just passed away.
I went through the motions of covering and assembling crews throughout the weeks coverage. One night, I was invited to view Pope John Paul with Cardinal McCarrick the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington. Given a minute apiece it was hard to collect your thoughts surrounded by the golden domes of St. Peter’s Basilica – Bernini’s Alter and Michelangelo’s Pietâ and in the middle of all of that beauty laid a man filled with humility and who was so beloved. Something began happen to me personally during my time there, while at the moment I would call it shock. It wouldn’t be until I was somewhere between Eastern Europe and New York where it would hit me. When it did, it hit me like a brick to the chest at 45,000 feet. It was almost a moment of clarity, where everything in ones life comes in focus.
It’s that plot turn. It was God writing the middle of story first in hopes that it would answer the question “how can I leave an lasting impression on Matt?”
I sat there in my seat on bound for Chicago and realized life was a series of moments that are strung together that make up our existence. Just like in a story there is that one moment, a definite period that changes the course of events. I realized I needed to do more with my life.
In the years that proceeded I walked away from TV News, moved my family to a small town and entered ministry. Nothing about this was easy. Matter of fact everything about it was hard. I had to give up a way of life, for something that was forcing me to be meek and mild.
I battled God in this time. I’m not proud of it. It wasn’t fair that I put him through that or myself for that matter. I just didn’t fully know what was going. I was not in control, something the storyteller in me likes to be. I remembering one day coming home to an empty house and screaming out loud to Him:
“God what are you doing, why are you torturing me here… why are you holding me back and what are you wanting from me.”
Nothing happened. No voice. No sign. No parting of the clouds. No gong. No cymbal. Just silence.
Then one day. After what felt like eternity. The phone rang. There was a job offer back in TV News. The next day the phone rang with another job offer. What played out was probably the worst period of my life. Every time I turned around I had a job offer. It felt like I was playing “Lets Make a Deal.”
Do I choose door number 1 or 3? Maybe 6 or 10?
Then I felt like I had found the right fit. The pay, the city, everything was perfect. I was about to except, what would have been my dream job when I read this line in my Bible: “Faithful is He who calls you…don’t forget what He has called you to do.”
Robert Frost said a “poem beings with a lump in the throat.” I believe that stories should end with the lump in the throat.
I realized God was faithful to me, but I was not faithful to him. See when I left my career in TV, I gave only 90% of my heart to him, because I feared I would fail at following my calling from Him. I knew if I couldn’t make it work, I could at least go back to my previous life. I was trying to write my own story and in many ways write my ending first. God showed me that he would provide if I wanted to go back to my previous life, if I didn’t want to follow what he had called me to do.
I believe the biggest difference between a Christian and a Christ follower, is their attitude on how they follow.
I gave Him the remaining 10% and since my life has been far from predictable, but I have been blessed immensely. I know that I’m under His authority and that I’m writing a story that He would be proud of… though it still has me thinking about what will my ending be.
Have you tried to control your life? Have you learned to appreciate the extraordinary in life… and God?