The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.
The apostle Paul describes a similar movement—how our lives take on new meaning as we’re caught up into the great purposes of God’s grand project of salvation. The apostle describes the gospel (or the “Good News about Christ”) as that “power of God at work, saving everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This was a shocking pronouncement because Paul boldly declared how God’s interests were not, as some supposed, only for Israel but rather for both the Jew “and also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
As Paul explained, he felt a “great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and the uneducated alike” (Romans 1:14). Paul’s energy exploded with new vigor because of this revelation: God’s love and renewal is for everyone. And Paul could participate in His bold scheme.
We find our own small stories erupting with new meaning when we allow God to pull us outside ourselves and place us in the center of His work rescuing the world. As Stanley Hauerwas says, “Salvation is the delightful surprise of having your little life caught up in the purposes of God for the whole world.”
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 3:1-21
Read 1 Timothy 2:3-5 and consider who God’s grand plan of salvation is designed to reach.
In what ways have you been tempted to live a small story? How does God’s grand project for the world reframe your life?