One thing we learn in music theatre literature class: the same story can have many different plots.

Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story have different plots, but they are the same story.

The original stage version of Cabaret varied greatly from the film version. Same story.

When I was twenty-eight years old, I made a drastic plot change in my choose-your-own-adventure tale. I decided to leave New York City and move to Los Angeles.

That decision proved to create a sizable tuition bill to the School of Life, and it also cleared the way for deep growth, healing, and miracles.

I still remember my agent telling me, “Don’t leave New York.” I did. And the following years saw me fighting morning traffic between mid-century stucco apartment buildings and strip malls in Van Nuys to get to my job at a mental health center–clearly an ironic plot flourish–and barely working as an actor.

I missed New York–the architecture, the seasons, public transportation (yes, even that), theatre auditions, and my friends.

After Melissa (whom I met in Los Angeles, thank you LA!) and I moved to North Carolina, I came home from work at Elon feeling ill.

I had just left a meeting where an alum several years my junior was sharing his experiences from Broadway shows and national tours.

Melissa held my shoulders and asked me what was wrong. As soon as her eyes met mine, I sobbed.

“I missed my window,” I cried. “I left New York right when I was getting callbacks for Broadway shows. I turned down a Broadway contract to stay in Los Angeles. I was so stupid. My ship’s sailed, and it’s my own damn fault.”

She hugged me and let me snot it out for a little while longer.

She got my gaze again, and with compassion in her voice she said, “Sweetheart, you did not miss your window. If you want to move to New York tomorrow, we can go. You can always dream a new dream.”

We did not move to New York the next day, but something loosened up inside me, and over the years I’ve come to see something–

Your plot is not your story.

The fine details of how you landed from points A to double-K are all workable and moldable–subject to the most miraculous of plot twists. The question we must ask is–what will my story be?

I want my story to be that of a man who loves well, kicks serious ass as a husband, and models for my sons how to honor the fire that God’s put in my heart to tell stories, to share music, and to add beauty and meaning to the world.

That’s what I’m working on.

How about you?

Please remember–there may be plot points you’d like to go back and rework. Me, too.

But your story–the theme of who you are–that happens when the shit piles we’ve stepped in and left behind get miraculously transmuted to gold. I know because I’m living the gold-from-shit reality right now.

And I’m praying the same grace that’s changed my life will fill yours, too.

Let’s determine today of all days to let grace in and to shed a little light: