Have you ever felt misunderstood before? Has it ever happened to you that others have told a story about you that wasn’t true and that you felt compelled to correct?
Consider, then, what it must have been like for the Swedish chemical engineer, inventor, entrepreneur named Alfred Bernhard Nobel back in the 19th century. Alfred made a fortune from the design, manufacture, and sale of military hardware including dynamite, blasting caps, and gun powder among other items used in the warfare of his time. Deserving or not, this became his life’s story up until the year 1888.
Then a rather strange thing occurred.
While visiting the French city of Cannes, Alfred’s brother, Ludvig, died. The local French newspaper produced a dramatic obituary of the occurrence with only one major problem. They got the wrong person. They wrote that Alfred had died, and their obituary carried forth the headline, “The merchant of death is dead.” It went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
Needless to say, Alfred took exception with two items involved. The first, of course, was his own death. It was, after all, his brother, Ludvig, who had died and not him. Secondly, they had his life story all wrong. He was, in his own estimation, a man of peace and not war. If only he could now, having seen his own obituary in advance, dedicate the rest of his life to leaving a true legacy and not the one wrongly told by that French newspaper.
Which is, of course, exactly what Dr. Nobel did. He left a fortune behind to honor and award distinguished inventors in such fields as chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and, yes, his favorite cause of all……the cause of peace. He, in effect, re-wrote his own life’s story.
I share this story today because we are now in the season typically called Lent by the Christian Church. Here we are focused around the story of Jesus leading up to his own death and resurrection. We are challenged to identify with his story and to, in effect, re-write our own story more in line with his. It’s a chance to get our story right. To make sure that upon our own death, something positive follows and not just the world’s own story of what we were really all about here on earth.
Quite a challenge, isn’t it? How would you go about re-writing your own story to clear away others’ misconceptions and misunderstandings? How would you like to be remembered after you’re gone? How would you set your own record straight?
Please consider this action on your part as Lenten preparation for Christ’s death and resurrection this year. Write two stories of your life. Don’t have to be long. In fact the first can be as short as a single paragraph. That first one is to be false; based on some popular myth or misunderstanding of what you are like. The second one is to be your true story. The one you’d like to have appear in the newspaper after you are gone. It’s your opportunity to participate anew in your own death and resurrection. And then to use this Easter as your start date for living out the story you want others to really understand about you.