It happens, whether in literature or in life
Sometimes reading is a slog. This may seem like an odd statement from someone who majored in English and talks often of books, but I find it true. I admit that I have given up on pages and entire chapters, and then, since I was skipping along anyway, read the end before I noticed I’d missed a key passage. The conclusion seemed odd without the context, and the surprise of the ending was ruined, so I set the book down with the intent to pick it up some other time. Some other time never came.
But then there are those books I have stayed with, which have in turn stayed with me. I still remember the day I finished David Copperfield during a weekend while in Bible School. Curled up in a chair while the late afternoon sun filtered through the window, I wistfully read the final pages. I did not want to say goodbye. In all that led up to this—both the fast-paced chapters and the slow passages—I had come to know David. Not only this, but as he matured over the course of the story, I grew with him. Dickens knew that the myriad side plots and the paragraphs that seemed unnecessary would in the end lead to his goal of character development.
I’ve read enough books in their entirety to know that if I persevere and keep reading, things will make sense, and I might even be changed in the process of making sense of them. Yet, the same old things snag me at times as I delve into a new book. Some pages drag by; others speak of unpleasant characters I’d rather not spend time with. Whether it be boredom or discomfort, both threaten to keep me from my goal.
I realized recently that the same things snag me in life. Boredom. Discomfort. A particular chapter in my existence seems to drag on, and I fret about what is ahead. I want to know. I want to understand how everything resolves and what it means. I want to skip past this section on “My ___ years in Atlanta” and find out the number that goes in the blank. Will I be here forever? At this thought, my mind hones in on the things I don’t like. The tedium of traffic; the shallowness of a culture driven by appearances; the mundane and the problematic.
Surely, I think, these are all reasons to pack my bags and move ahead. Wait. I’ll look into grad school. Wait. I’ll research teaching other places. Wait. I’ll take a year and commune with the trees. Wait. Whether in my Bible reading, or through other sources, this theme of waiting keeps coming back. Wait. Wait on the Lord. Hope in the Lord. I discovered that even the root meaning of hope is “to wait.”
Well, Lord, what am I waiting for? Sometimes I wait expectantly for an answer, as if it is the answer that will remove all of life’s uncertainty. Yet, even when it comes, it brings its own new set of variables and wonderings. In moments of clarity I remember that I am not waiting for certain life events so I can check them off and forge ahead. I am waiting for the person of Christ. I am waiting to see the coming Kingdom, and to hear the still, small voice that reminds me God is near even now.
That still, small voice whispered to my heart this evening as I peeled carrots and fretted about my future. I realized that God, the Master Author, writes every chapter of our lives with the aim of character development. He patiently works in us through the mundane and the problematic. He adds odd passages and tedious side plots. He weaves our lives with those of other characters through unexpected and even bizarre ways. Yet, when we turn the last page, it will be the beginning. There will be no more wistfulness. There will be no more wondering.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
By the time these thoughts are published, I might be in a totally new place, or still right here in Atlanta. And you who are reading might have seen the answer to an ongoing prayer, or be faithfully walking along the same old path with only a flicker of light. Regardless of where we are in our narrative, God knows each line that leads us home, and He will get us there. Let’s be patient with Him, and let every page tell the story He intends.