Write the Future – How you might play a crucial role in another’s life story


In today’s world we are increasingly urged to think positively, aim high and set ambitious goals for ourselves. The self improvement business has seen unprecedented growth in the last thirty years, with demand for books, seminars and speakers setting off a whole niche industry worth $11bn that didn’t even exist much before the 1930s. Countless success stories of people climbing the ladder or turning their life around serve to remind us of the strength of the human spirit and self determination. High profile figures such as Oprah Winfrey or Bear Grylls inspire us to believe that anything is possible.  The old adage ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it’ is a popular motto.

Although there’s much to be said for the value of being the best you can be and trying to achieve one’s goals, it would be easy to adopt a self centred focus – seeking only to serve your own best interests at all costs. In the quest to make it in the world and be the best you can be, it would seem that there’s a tendency to forget that we do not live in a vacuum, where what we do or say only affects us, but rather that our destinies are intertwined with the people all around us – our family, our neighbours, our friends and co-workers.

The sentimental classical movie It’s a Wonderful Life shows us how just one life can make a difference to many others.  If George Bailey hadn’t been born, he would not have been there to save his younger brother’s life or to prevent a young woman’s demise. In a similar vein, the more recent movie The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher, explores the issues of abuse and positive and negative interactions between people and how those actions can trigger a chain of events for good or evil. Although the premise of the movie is based on one man’s disturbed childhood and consequent psychological disturbances, the theme that runs through the film is a desperate attempt to consider whether we can effect major change in others’ lives depending on our own choices and actions. The dilemma for the main character exists in his stark inability to do all the right things to help others be successful and avoid destructive forces in their lives. The viewers soon realise the impossibility of one man’s mission to make everything perfect. Ultimately, he reaches the conclusion that is polar opposite to It’s a Wonderful Life – namely that his friends and family would all be better off if he had never been born.

In one sense, The Butterfly Effect is rather negative or nihilistic. There is no hope other than his having not been born. An alternative reality where the negative issues are worked through, resolved and where everything turns out okay is not offered. For the most part we realise that ‘happy ever after’ endings are mere fantasy for most people, let alone groups of people.

The flawed part of this story is in the glossing over of the fact that other people also determine how their life turns out, according to their own choices. We’re led to believe that the lead role has the power to save or destroy others’ futures according to his actions, yet it’s clear that there are a vast number of factors which shape a person’s life and affect their choices or the consequences of what happens depending on whom they live and interact with. It wouldn’t be drama without these stark twists of fate with their extreme chain reactions; we’re meant to feel disturbed and left wondering about the influence of our own decisions and the effects of our relationships with others.

This is a good thing. It’s good to be reminded that our lives are inextricably linked to other people’s – that we may not only be the master of our own destinies but also other people’s. At the same time, the movie depicts the fallen, imperfect world that we inhabit; we cannot be its saviour and make everything just right for those around us. One human is simply not that powerful, to erase all pains and troubles from others’ lives. Nor are we able to go back in time and make different choices. We all make mistakes or poor choices and have to endure some of those consequences.

Faith in Christ will also not automatically wipe away the hurtful and alarming things we’ve encountered this side of eternity. Whether you are a Christian or not, we all have to deal with the cards dealt us in life and face up to the circumstances surrounding our childhoods. But I am convinced by the message of hope and redemption in Christianity that is only lightly hinted at in the movie I watched. A life redeemed by Christ’s power is able to transform the stories of our lives, but we need to be open to the significance that our words and actions bring. Despite the pointlessness in believing we can effect change for anything and everyone (we certainly can’t) – we do have some measure of influence over some circumstances and situations, especially as adults. Although we’re unable to control the actions of others, we may well play a crucial role in steering another’s life in a positive direction.

The movie did then remind me that words and actions can be significant and that, to a certain degree, we can be effectors of change and influence. Ordinary individuals can wield power that is far reaching or that triggers a turn of events – either in a positive or negative way. I know that I, for one, long to use my words, my relationships, my actions to bring about positive influences  – and that it’s only in considering the circumstances of others more that I come to realize that life is not all about ‘me’.  If I know you, my life is linked to yours. The realisation of that truth is mind boggling.

For those who follow Christ, we have the reassurance that we can commit our daily lives to Him and be sure of his guiding hand over our life. We need not stress over the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices; we can only live as best we can with the knowledge that a life entrusted to God is secure no matter what we go through.  None of us knows what the future holds and we cannot control other people’s actions or reactions. But we can know the One who holds the future and who promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

We can also live more aware of the role that we play in the futures of those around us. We are in no way responsible for everything – (What a burden that would be!) – but we can play a part in writing the futures of others. Part of our humanity is irrevocably tied into the common themes and experiences we share with others. One day we’ll look back on the story of our lives to see what we wrote and what roles the different characters in our story played. In many ways, how we behave and interact today will be featured in the future stories of those connected to us. And I find that quite incredible to grasp.

Beyond Winter (a poem)

Enduring, pervading, persistent, prolonged

Yet not permanent
Prevailing, encompassing, surrounding,
Yet not forever
Merely a season
Passing, changing, quickening
Till he brings forth
Though she may tarry
Let her come
Like a bride sweeping to her beloved
Casting all else aside
Determined, focussed, assured
Of his love

Not looking back to the
Bare, stark darkness of
Winter, now
Passing, depleted, defeated
Giving way to warmth
New growth, new life
Vibrant colours of his
Proud in her coming
Majestic, appealing, awe-inspiring
Yet gentle, meek
Awaited, now welcome
Closing the door, once more to

Be the Inspiration – How using your gifts can be a life changer for someone else/ FaithWalk


Photo Credit: Dafydd359, Creative Commons

The old classical guitar positioned in the corner of the room wasn’t particularly alluring or noteworthy. It was concealed within a cheap, tan coloured case gathering dust. But it beckoned me.

My older sister had long since left for college, having had some beginners’ classes, but she’d decided not to pursue the instrument any further. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I claimed the second-hand guitar as my own. Excitedly I opened the case and placed the strap across my shoulder. It felt a little cumbersome, yet simultaneously magical; the varnished wood and nylon strings seemed well crafted and aesthetically pleasing. I plucked the strings to discover it was greatly out of tune. I would need to get my friend to tune it; perhaps she could show me a thing or two.

I was in the middle of my ‘A’ levels when I decided to learn the guitar and figured that if I practised during my times of relaxation, instead of watching Australian soaps, that it might just be time well spent. I was right.

Within a year and a half I was writing my own songs, leading worship at small groups and C.U at university and playing with other musicians. By that time I’d acquired my own Yamaha acoustic guitar and a set of music books. When I met my future husband at university, one of the things that helped draw us together was our common interest in music and guitar. Within months we were asked to sing and play at a friend’s wedding.

A year or so after that I was playing alongside German friends during my year abroad. The song I composed there in my room, inspired by a photograph on my pin board, and sent to my fiancé on a TDK cassette tape (remember those days?) was sung by me and my husband on our wedding day. ‘First Love’ wowed the congregation, as the song had not been scheduled into the order of service. (I had been worried that I might be too nervous and back out on the day).

Fast forward a couple more years and I found myself on a full time performing arts course. Once more my guitar playing and song-writing skills came in handy. At a performance we put on at the Midlands Arts Centre I performed a couple of specially written songs, put together for the theme of the event and played alongside dramatic interpretation.

When we lived in the States for a few years, I formed a small band to perform as a support act at a coffee house concert in New Jersey. We also experimented with song recording in a friend’s basement recording studio.

More recently I’ve joined one of the worship teams at my local church and have enjoyed learning to play in different styles and with a variety of musicians. When I went to visit my dying dad who could barely speak or move in his final days early last year, I wanted to express my love for him through quietly playing guitar and singing a psalm. Tears are starting to fall as I write this, as memories are evoked and I can hear the song in my head. Music can be powerful.

Learning the guitar and stepping out to play in a variety of contexts, despite my feelings of inadequacy and lack of formal training, has been significant, meaningful and central to me for more than half my life. I cannot imagine my life without guitar being one of its main features.

And yet this story is ultimately not about me. I love this quote from Jeff Goins’ book ‘Wrecked’, where he boldly states ‘Your life is not about you.’ It sounds crazy, so contrary to what we’re accustomed to hearing in popular culture. But I’ve found it resonates with me and my life.

Why did I even pick up the guitar for the very first time? Was it simply curiosity or a simple whim one day? Was it completely my own idea?

No, far from it! I was influenced by a friend I’d met at church. She was a new Christian who’d been having guitar lessons, and one day when we were hanging out with a bunch of young people she brought out her guitar. We didn’t even know her that well at this stage but she put aside any fears of embarrassment and played a song she’d written the night before. I can still remember the song and the lyrics, which detailed her personal spiritual journey. We were all amazed at her confidence and encouraged her to write more.

This one friend, Sharon, who poured out her heart gently in a song, inspired me to do the same. I became convinced that I should and could learn, too. Since learning to play the guitar I have been likewise inspired to share my story and to speak to others through songs. I’ve written several songs for other people that simply came about as a response to their situation. It wasn’t just about me. The guitar has been a vehicle of blessing to both myself, my family and other people. I’ve also encouraged others to write songs and try new things.

What astounds me about this realisation is that I’m not even all that great on the instrument. Yes I can play and hold a tune but I’m not particularly skilled, and I still have never had even one formal guitar lesson! Others are far more gifted than I, yet God has emboldened and equipped me to use the skills I have to bless and affect others.

In the same way that Sharon inspired me that one evening in 1990, I’ve experienced how actions or pursuits are not completely random. Something you say, create, do or start can kick start a chain of events or something significant in others’ lives. Sharon didn’t worry about what our reactions might be to her song, she just played. My story is forever linked to hers.

One person was the inspiration for a crucial feature of my life. You, too, can be that person in another setting, in a different context. As you engage with others and use your gifts for good, you can be the inspiration for someone else. May I encourage you to not hold back or let fear stop you from using or sharing your skills, imperfect as they might be. You will never know the true extent of your influence or how your actions affected the course of another’s life. Through simply exercising your gifts, you can be the inspiration.