My father-in-law used to read the last page of a novel to decide if he would read the book or not. Will it end in a way that makes the pain worth it? A grown up version of “And they all lived happily ever after” was sought. Well, I wish I could read the end of my life’s story and see if it will end up ok.
Since I can’t read the ending, I would prefer to change the draft I’m in. Currently I’m living a chapter of life I would never have chosen to have written into my life story. Because another’s plot is intertwined with mine, I won’t share the details. But imagine the most unexpected and undesired events of your life unfolding; that’s where the storyline of my life is right now.
Yesterday it occurred to me that I would have avoided this part of life if I could, but I can’t. If I thought of my life like a novel, then this would be a chapter I couldn’t put down because I wanted to see how it works out. You see I LOVE a good story. A few years ago I went to an award winning movie that some friends saw multiple times, and I just couldn’t get into it. Finally I realized my friends and for that matter most of North America enjoyed the graphics, the technology to create it, but I was looking for a story, rich in detail, complex in plot, with well-developed, unique, believable characters.
Stay with me: I know this life comparison to novels sounds crazy, but the Lord used it to strengthen me. When I teach narrative reading comprehension or narrative writing, students are advised to look for the goal of the main character or for the problem the protagonist faces. Certainly I’m facing a problem, but how it sorts isn’t all up to me.
In the midst of the problem I have written into my story beautiful people who
- message me with encouragement and presence
- cook for my family
- help transport my brood where they need to be
- listen to internal chaos, pain, confusion
- hangout and watch my younguns
- share hilarious videos
- checked in on my ability to fulfill responsibilities
- taken some responsibilities off my plate
- ask good questions
- suggest ways to navigate
- offer to do things I’ve not even been able to take advantage of
- check in on my kids
- graced me for failed commitments and missed appointments
- given freedom for time and attention to be elsewhere
- pray for us
- buy groceries
- share a meaningful quote or Scripture
- connect with people who can help
Yes, I’m blessed with amazing supporting characters. There are rich, meaningful details written into this chapter.
Now as the main character I can set the goal of my life and of this chapter. Actually, I’ve already done that. Simply, my life goal is to love the Lord with my whole being and to reflect the love of Christ to people. In the last several years when I want to do a life check up, I’ve used Jeremiah 9:23-24 to ask
- Am I placing my boast/confidence in my wisdom?
- Am I placing my boast/confidence in my strength – physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.?
- Am I placing my boast/confidence in riches? in my ability to work, provide, create?
If any yeses come up, I try to humbly lay these sources of confidence down and focus on the next questions:
- Am I placing my boast/confidence in the Lord?
- Am I getting to know and understand the Lord more?
- Where do I see God’s steadfast love? How can I participate in this?
- Where do I see His justice? How can I participate in this?
- Where do I see His righteousness? How can I participate in this?
- How am I delighting the Lord?
Somehow realizing that I’m in a painful time, brutal actually, but I can still walk towards the life goal of love, humility, dependence on God, enjoying His love, justice, and righteousness, makes this chapter bearable. And I can hope for an ending to the novel that I’ll like. I’m certainly becoming a more complex character.
I have been trying throughout the unfolding pain, to do what it takes to have a renewed mind. So undermining these ruminations about life as a story are many pieces:
- regular reading of Scripture
- constant prayer and seeking the Lord’s face
- a counsellor’s advise to engage brain and body; words and movement
- an article “Is There an Upside to Tragedy?” – that I read in an old copy of O magazine. The idea swimming in the back of my mind came from this quote: “With post-traumatic growth, a person who has faced difficult challenges doesn’t just return to baseline, which is what happens with resilience. They change in fundamental, sometimes dramatic, ways.”
- a life group discussion of Romans 5 where another person shared about personal suffering that was producing endurance which produces character which produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love ihas been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
So maybe when I come to the end of this chapter, like the ugly duckling, I will be saying, “So much happiness I did not dream of when I was an ugly duckling.”