It’s hard to share portions of your life and God’s work in it because each story is like a page torn out from a book. You may get a glimpse, a taste but you can’t see and understand His complete work which intertwines and underlies all the stories in your life together, and then intertwines them with the stories of another person’s life that you played into, then intertwines them into the stories of the life of your community, your state, your nation, the world and finally into God’s own story of redemption, the great biblical narrative that rules and holds them all.
It’s like looking at the night sky and seeing a star, and then seeing the solar system that it is a small part of and then seeing it is actually a part of a bigger galaxy which is in turn a part of many galaxies and on and on you go as your story gets smaller and smaller when placed in perspective. It is just a pinhole of God’s glory and can never be contained or captured by anyone or anything. The stories we share are only bits and pieces, small glimpses of a whole that is too great to condense. Even entire autobiographies are only condensed versions of God’s over all work.
Stories are like one dimensional photographs, they are limited in what they share with us. There is so much going on behind the scenes and influencing the scenes that we will never be aware of. They are not relevant to the particular story or the point that the story is trying to emphasis. When a story ends, we no longer know what happened to the lives of the people. They go on. They started before the story and will continue after the story. Our glimpse is only a momentarily glimpse as through a peep hole. So much is left out.
I wonder do we ever do God justice when we share our stories? They are just chopped up condensed versions of what He has really done, but even the chopped up versions are glorious. It reminds me of when I create a pencil portrait or sketch a picture, I never seem to do the actual photograph I am referencing justice. I am forced to leave out so much and there is always so much detail I can’t quite capture. A favorite quote of mine comes from the artist John Ruskin:
“Nature is never distinct and never vacant, she is always mysterious, but always abundant; you always see something, but you never see all. And thus arises that exquisite finish and fullness which God has appointed to be the perpetual source of fresh pleasure to the cultivated and observant eye; a finish which no distance can render invisible, and no nearness comprehensible; which in every stone, every bough, every cloud, and every wave is multiplied around us, for ever presented, and for ever exhaustless. And hence in art, every space or touch in which we can see everything, or in which we can see nothing, is false. Nothing can be true which is either complete or vacant every touch is false which does not suggest more than it represents, and every space is false which represents nothing.”
This is where I get stuck a lot and feel overwhelmed. I have been trying to answer the question, “What difference has Jesus made in your life?” My mind looks back as far as it can see and the difference is amazing and I feel overwhelmed by the differences he has made. I don’t know how to start or how to to tie them all together to give you a complete picture. Just one dimensional photographs of here and there.
My mind then tries to look ahead to what he is still doing, but it can’t see past this moment. There is no cheating, no peaking ahead in this book. A good friend of mine tells me she can’t read a book until she reads the last pages first, that way she knows everything will be ok in the end. I’ve thought about sending her a suspense novel but ripping out the last pages first before I gave it to her and only handing them to her once she reaches the end.
I can’t tease her too much though. I am the same way with suspense and true stories and dramas. I want the happy ending. I want to know that everything they are facing and enduring is justified in the end. A movie without justice in the end is pointless to me and it doesn’t sell well on the markets either so it’s not just me. It’s an unspoken rule. Everyone wants the happy ending, and knows the main character always survive in the end or at least goes down triumphant. A story where the main character dies midstream or doesn’t complete his task is no story at all. We know it may cost the the main character’s life, but he wins and evil always looses. We can put up with the suspense, the suffering in the story if we know it is going to be ok. In the end justice will win, love will win, good will win. It comforts us and gives us hope that no matter how badly the story is stacked against this person, no matter how the author seems to throw everything he can possibly imagine at him, and thwart him several times before he finally succeeds; we know it’s only going to add to the glory and joy found at the end of the story. The depth of despair and the backdrop of darkness makes the triumph only that much sweeter, brighter and higher. He will overcome in a way that we can’t foresee, we know the author has tried to conceal the resolution from us. We know it will be logical and a somewhat reasonable solution that we hadn’t thought of. But all the problems the story contained will be resolved…in the end.
A good story has a point a direction it is moving us toward.. Reconciliation of all that was broken, all that went wrong being righted again.. Completeness. Satisfaction. Joy. As for bad stories, well there are no explanations for them, except for bad authors.
Aren’t you glad that we are part of a good story, and we have a good author? God in his grace does not leave us in total darkness regarding our future and our outcome. He does give us the last pages of his book to comfort and encourage us that in the end everything will be ok. The middle pages may be revealed to us moment by moment, and we may face obstacles that seem impossible, insurmountable, disastrous, full of such deep grief that our story appears to be ruined and hopeless; leaving us no will to walk forward, to see tomorrow because tomorrow appears to be empty holding no joy to call us forward.
These days, these chapters will come, they are promised to come, (2 Thess. 1:5-7) but God calls us to trust Him, as their author, as our author. He calls us to keep following him, to trust him, to focus on that last chapter when we know all wrongs will be righted. All tears will be wiped away from our eyes and we will be united with him, reunited with our loved ones who are now hidden in him and who are safely stored away on heaven’s high shelf, protected from the afflictions and sufferings of this world. He will return them to us. We know that although their part in our story may have ended when they left it; however, they are still very much alive and a part of the greater, overarching story of God and his biblical narrative. They still live because He lives and they can be found in him.
Death is only a darkness that conceals but no longer destroys for those of us who have placed our hope in Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55) Those who have passed away in it are only concealed from our eyes, as our author’s hand is. If only we can reach outside our pages and touch Him, but instead He reaches inside our pages and touches us, reminding us that He is a God who created us, called us and cares for us. He has a plan and purpose for those He calls His own, to give us a hope and a future. Even if we exit the book, this temporary life, our eternal life is kept in Him. One day we will see Him as He is. (1 Cor. 13:12) One day when all the characters and all creation bow before their author. He does have a plan and a purpose for those who work evil now. They too will aid in bringing glory God, if only by being the dark contrast that highlights his excellence and goodness. (2 Tim. 2:20-21, Rom. 9:21, Rom. 14:11)
Even when a story ends, we know that it still goes on. It is just a portion of it, a tiny string that ends, is resolved and is concluded. When the movie ends and they ride off unto the sunset, we know that is not truly the end. That is the beginning, the beginning of a new story, that is temporarily concealed from us and left to our imagination. And so it is with ours. Even death is not the end, but the beginning of a story that we can’t see yet. ( 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 2 Cor. 5:1-4) As it appears we are moving from a world of light into darkness, we are actually moving from a world of darkness into a world of light. “Precious in the site of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psa. 116:15) Death to this world is but a new beginning for us, a birth that places us into our fathers hands, safe and sound from all the afflictions and birth pains that tried to hold us back from Him. Soon we will have a new name, given to us by him, (Rev 2:17) a new home, (John 14:2-4) an inheritance ( Eph. 1:18) and He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev. 21:4) This is our new life, our future when our temporary stories fade into the eternal one and become a part of HisStory.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” – Rev. 21:1-8
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