Friday, August 22, 2014

Chapter's End

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning."  (Ecclesiastes 7:8a)  

I opened a book one day.  I brushed pages stained with years, the corners dog-eared by moments and memories.  The dry whisper of their turning stirred a smell of deepness, of time.  It was penned in a flowing script, and passion gave blood to the ink that sought to fill the emptiness with words—with life.

There I met familiar figures, and places I’d called home, walking paths I’d wandered once, across the distant years.  Springs and summers of green and bloom; autumns of mist and gold.  Winters of splintered diamonds cast to freeze the sleeping world.

Yet the chasm of time began to narrow, and with it my sight grew shorter and sharp, the story touching nearer to present pains.  Old words and scars gave way to marks raw and fresh, ones still being etched upon my soul.  And I came to a void upon one page, final letters teetering upon the brink of an unknown precipice.  In the emptiness of the uncertainty I read a warning that pierced my thought:

“Behold, you have come to the Chapter’s End.”

I longed to remain in familiar paragraphs, the charted word-map of memory’s gaze.  With ink penning each page, I would never lack for the safety of the known world.

I paused to lay my finger upon the last page, but…just what lay beyond the Chapter’s End?

There was no bridge that I could see, no sense of certainty nor solid ground.  But as I studied the letters, their lines spread wide upon the edge of the unknown, I also wondered what it was like to fly.

With shaking hands I tucked into my heart the memories of previous pages.  Into a drawer went the words and worlds I knew.   I might take them out and admire them, and their wisdom I hid inside me, but I did not belong within  those pages any longer.  I was becoming.

Some dreams I laid within that drawer; some I bore with me for the journey ahead, for hope in the Author’s promises are what many dreams were made for.

The pages ahead were crisp and new, a canvas of earth and sky, empty to fill.  Metal ready for the maker’s hand, were these the many chapters still yet to come.

I was struck by an ache of sadness, as I turned the chapter, humbly uplifting the days ahead.  And I glanced back over the shoulder of the page, to the chasm of uncertainty, the last of what I knew.  But if the greatest adventure lies ever ahead of me, then so too must a story eternally look forward.  The pages of this book, I now knew, were not meant to be turned back.

I cannot see to “the end,” nor can I often peer even beyond each chapter’s close.  But there is one who has read this story before, and he is the great bridge builder.   Therefore I need not fear the brink of what is ahead, nor the current of uncertainty, which rages beneath.  For a book penned in the blood of sacrifice is firmly bound, and its author can always be trusted.  

As chapters of our stories close, they need not always signify the giving up of something, but instead they represent a continuing on, new notes intertwining to fill the symphony, which will only make it deeper and more beautiful.  There is joy ahead, and there is sorrow, but what we have read we take with us, as the author leads along sentence paths he well knows and has trod before—if only we will allow the page to be turned.

"There are far greater things ahead than any we leave behind." (C.S. Lewis)  

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All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2014.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Wedding and a Funeral

Is this the little girl I carried?  Is this the little boy at 
 play?  I don’t remember growing older.  When did they?  
Sunrise, Sunset.  Sunrise, Sunset.  Swiftly fly the years.  One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”  (Fiddler on the Roof)


For some it brings to mind freedom and hope, for others the bars of a prison gradually strengthening their grip.  The gypsy of time constantly runs the world o’er, stopping and staying for no man, woman, or child.  For each human being, time is measured, finite, and bounded by a beginning and an end.  Within the grasp of such a fate, how is it that one can live truly and fully? 

Is it possible that time can be redeemed? 

I attended a wedding this past weekend.  It was a day of beauty, celebration, happiness, love, purity, and promise.  The face of the bride was lovely, radiant, and full of joy.  And the groom?  Well, it looked to me as though he thought he were receiving the most terribly precious gift ever given to a man.  In between the laughter of the camera shutter and all the cake and smiles, I had a strange thought.  I was reminded of my late uncle’s memorial service.

Recently my family had held a simple time of remembrance for this man, and like my dear friend’s wedding, this too was a kind of celebration.  Relatives dusted off their fondest memories, drawing them out like old photo albums from a cardboard attic box.  All laughed, many cried, and this moment was also hallowed by time. 

Ecclesiastes assures us that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (vs3).  There is Time appointed for life and death, sorrow and laughter, mourning and dancing, tearing and mending, for words and for silence (vs2-8).  And threaded throughout the song is the melody that “God has made everything beautiful in its time, and He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (vs11).  It is no coincidence that the old saying about a birth always following a death was written.  For that certainly seems to be the way of things on planet earth.  But again, the question remains.  How to live a full life as an earthbound creature, a being trapped in a finite skin?  How do we run well the one race we've been given?   

“Solomon also says that God has set eternity in the hearts of mankind.  Knowing that gives purpose to life.  The phrase ‘eternity in their hearts’ means God has placed a big question mark deep in every man’s soul.  We should be asking the question:  What is the meaning of life?  God intended it that way.  Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal—that this world is not all there is” (Krell, “Time’s Up”).

The answer then is not really how to grasp at more time to get things done or do all the things we wanted to do.  It lies in the perspective, what we do with what we have.  It is asking of God what we must do, our purpose.  I don’t believe any soul is fully able to perceive this correctly without a true knowledge of who God is and therefore who they are.  We are bound; He is infinite.  We are imperfect;  He is perfect.  He is God; we are not.  But praise be to Him, that if we are found in Christ, we may share in the glory of eternity.        

Solomon would suggest that practically we must do good while we can, as our time lasts (vs12).  And I believe the New Testament would support this idea when it speaks of running the race marked out for us, living and dying to one day look upon the face of the Holy One.   According to Anne Voskamp, “Time is life—and if I want the fullest life, I need to find the fullest time.”  And that is what we must do, make our time full, saturated, being in each moment, while the ebb and flow of the seasons carries us forward.  God is teaching me that life is living – breathing each moment without tension – because I can rely on Him; because I can breathe in His promises; because I can live each moment grateful for little things” (Voskamp).

It’s been said that the dates that mark each man’s journey aren’t nearly as important as the line between the two, the life that was lived.  Not how long it was, or how much money was made, or many people attended the funeral, but the myriad of moments in the middle that answer the question:  how did he live and why?  

And if we are in Christ, we need not fear the binding of time on our lives, so long as we are able to live as full as we may and let the Father of Time handle the rest and fill our souls with His peace.  

Let us together keep running the race, doing good while we may and trusting the one who led us safe thus far and who will not fail in leading us Home.  Breathe out the tension, the anxiety, and the never-enough, and rely on the one who is outside Time, who has laid a life before you, one brimming with promise even in the midst of suffering.  As the currents change flow, He is able to keep you on course.    

To the Bride and Groom:  Blessings, dear friends, and may the Lord create something beautiful with your marriage, one that continues to bless others, and that only grows stronger and more radiant with each passing year. 

To My Uncle:  I love you, and I have faith that when I come home, I will see you in Paradise, walking with the Savior.  

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All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2014.