Old Dog, New Tricks, and the Beauty of Storytelling

Hello friends! I am very pleased to be sharing with you all my first blog post from my senior year here in Orange City.

I have always self-identified as a "guy of spontaneity," and I enjoy trying new things and challenging myself. In fact, the most crazy and memorable stories I have from my past 3+ years at Northwestern weren’t the result of carefully planned-out activities. They occurred organically, from the most unlikely of circumstances. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a distinguishable pattern in making stories happen. Most often, a good story includes two components: boredom, and a question. And the best kind of question is most commonly a “what if” question. Here are a few quality examples:

“What if we just rode tandem bicycles all the way to Sioux Center?”

“What if the song “Hello” by Adele is actually about a pregnant woman talking to her baby?”

“What if I ate 17 cookies and then ran a mile?

I think you get the picture. After the initial question is asked, the rest is a cakewalk. Simply answer the question. (In case you’re wondering, the answer to the third question happens to involve the reappearance of 17 cookies). I have many more questions where those came from, so hit me up if you’re ever in need of a stimulating prologue to a story!

This past August, I asked myself a “what if” question that carried a bit more weight than others I typically ask. I was sitting in a locker room, lacing up my cleats for my fourth and final soccer training camp. I had already felt hesitant about playing soccer my senior year because of the substantial time commitment. However, I hadn’t anticipated the question that in that moment sprang unbidden into my mind: What if I spent the time I normally spend playing soccer pursuing other things I’ve always wanted to do in college? It came quickly and abruptly into my mind, so I brushed it aside. But the notion continued to enter my thoughts, and I relented to enter into prayerful consideration. Long story short, I ended up leaving the soccer team (only on the field!), and the chapter of my life that was dedicated to my identity as an athlete ended, and it was painful. But it was also a beautiful opportunity for a new story to begin.

Around the same time I departed from the Northwestern men’s soccer team, fliers began appearing around campus, advertising for the theatre department’s winter production: Godspell, a rock musical depicting a modern reenactment of the Gospel of Matthew. I was immediately intrigued, because Godspell is one of my favorite musicals. Then, in typical Lincoln fashion, I realized that I had a whole lot of new free time, and I hadn’t participated in a musical since I played Tree #2 in a middle school show, and I lacked any real theatre experience, so the obvious choice was for me to audition.

And here I am. Cast in the school production of Godspell, and hopelessly smitten with the deeply evocative biblical storytelling that depicts Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The last couple months of rehearsal have allowed me to participate in a story much greater than my own; a story that humbles the proud and exalts the gentle.

Author Donald Miller (read him!) discusses in his books the notion of "living a better story." He writes in Blue Like Jazz, “It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen… This is how God does things.” I can’t help but think that some of those things in our lives that seem so spontaneous – i.e. abruptly deciding to participate in a musical rather than soccer – are not as random as they seem. Rather, they are the result of gradual change that God speaks into our stories through a variety of people and events. Nestled amidst these opportunities for growth is a solemn challenge: Will you choose to abandon selfishness in order to accompany God on a much greater journey of love and reconciliation?

Live a better story.

— Lincoln