The other night we were eating ice cream with David’s sister and her family. It had been a few weeks since we’d all gotten to hang out, so we were catching up on what had been going on lately. Pete, our brother-in-law, recounted something our 5 year old nephew, Stephen, said before he went to bed one night recently…
“Daddy, what happens after this story is finished?”
“Why, what do you mean, Stephen?” Pete replied.
“After God’s done with our story here, what happens?”
Pete went on to talk with his son about Heaven and also about Jesus coming back. What a curious, wonder-filled mind that little boy has. His innocent question calls a portion of Ecclesiastes 3:11 to mind, “…He has put eternity into man’s heart…” (ESV).
Do you ever think about the page after this story? I do a lot. The more loved ones that have left these pages for the next, the more it’s on my mind. I catch myself gasping for air some nights, realizing that my own breaths are numbered. I know of at least 3 people that I went to school with whose lives ended far more suddenly than any of us would have ever imagined. A 23 year old student my husband had in class died after having a seizure in her sleep the day after she turned in all her graduation requirements last month. I have a good friend whose sister just shockingly exited at age 24 last week. A good friend of my sister’s was killed by a drunk driver just a few nights ago. Those kind of things make me check my own story and ache for those who don’t have a happy ending to their story once this one is completed.
What’s the story like that you’re living now? Is it full of tragedy? How about comedy? Is it a coming of age story? A horror story? A fantasy world? Full of romance? A masterpiece of fiction?
What’s it marked by?
The greatest pearls of wisdom that I’ve worn since completing my college degree in English are the examination of the human condition and the need for a Savior that ensues.
Whatever type of story you’ve lived or are living, it’s full of conflict I’m sure. It’s full of the human condition: tragic, searching, wretched, selfishness, etc. Depressing, right?
It is indeed. Deplorable. Seemingly hopeless. Awful. Nothing but a tragic ending in sight.
That part of your story probably causes some panic. Are you still there in that panicked state? Or, perhaps you remember when you were there?
When you woke up and realized that your life was turning into one big ball of conflict, you probably started looking for something to help. You needed resolution. So you began to search and attempt to resolve that conflict.
What was it?
People? People always let you down because they’re just like you…human….and full of the same human condition that fills you.
Drugs and/or alcohol? If you’ve come to long enough, you’ve already realized that no amount of pills or drink can take the edge off of what you’re dealing with.
Food? No matter how much comfort food you eat, you still couldn’t get the peace you needed. Attempting to resolve with food is only agitated by stepping on the scale. No matter how little food you eat will make you feel complete either.
Philosophy? Philosophy and religion are both vehicles of searching for what you need. Without hope both are worthless.
Science? Science can only explain so much of our universe. That’s why so many discoveries and theories exist. No one has all the answers. If we still have to discover things, doesn’t that imply that someone had to hide them in the first place?
Exercise? While endorphins are great and getting healthy is super wonderful, you can’t run away from what’s chasing you. You can’t push through the pain fast enough.
Things? No matter how many gadgets, gizmos, and whatnots you fill your mansion and fancy cars with, none will ever fill what you’re truly on the quest for.
Pleasure? Massages, bubble baths, magazines, surfing the web, getaways, and rendezvous may satisfy for a moment, but you’ll still keep coming back for more because you’re not satiated yet.
Doing good for others? It’s fantastic to help your fellow man. But no amount of charity or volunteer work fills the search for true goodness in your life.
And the list continues…
If you’re living a truly great story, though, you’ve realized that you need a hero. You’ve realized that you need to be rescued. You’ve realized that your story is lacking the greatest element of any work of literature: REDEMPTION. You’ve come to understand that you need someone larger than life. In fact, the only one who fits the suit for this hero want ad is the Giver of Life Himself.
When the Hero of the human condition shows up in your life, your panic turns into peace. Of course you’ll have moments of fright and worry along the rest of the journey. That’s because you don’t know what’s next on the page. But this Hero I’m talking about…He does. He has overcome every bit of panic that has come from the dragons and dungeons that were ever a part of your story. This Hero’s weapon is mightier than any sword pulled out of a sheath. His sword is the very pen that wrote your story. His sword is mighty because it is TRUTH. His sword is an extension of Himself. The words He wrote into creation became flesh…HE APPEARED just when we needed Him most… as the embodiment of Truth, Life, and the Way of Rescue.
Have you been rescued yet? There is much to be rescued from. Not only from the human condition we now live in, but also from the tragic never-ending volumes that wait for you once the parchment of this story’s final page has it’s final drop of ink.
Remember those ‘choose your own ending stories’ many of us read as kids? You’ve got that option in your story too. You can read ahead, but you can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live those pages here.
One story that begins is full of tragedy and sorrow in a very real, non-fantastical place called Hell. You know the suffering you’ve experienced and seen others in the story we are all apart of now, right? That’s nothing compared to what’s to come if you choose this ending. Compound that with a never ending lake of fire. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15 ESV). I don’t necessarily mean that you’ve chosen to wear all black, lock yourself in a room with “kill the puppies” music, and burn children. By not choosing the happy ending in the real place and peace of Heaven, the ending that you choose is Hell. There are no other words to say than your ending is tragic.
The other story that begins is marked by grace, redemption, new beginnings, and beauty. This is the happily ever after story your soul has longed for from the day you entered the only story you know. You know when the white knight rescues the trapped princess? This is it. You get to live happily ever after with your Prince Charming. Happiness is marked by circumstances. The circumstance that you will be stepping just beyond the crystal sea onto the shores of a very real place called Heaven for all of eternity…that’s happy. So yeah, I’d say it’s happily ever after.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21: 21-26 ESV)
The truth is that all of our stories have foreshadowings of hope. None of them are hopeless. Hope is always there. But to those who choose to reject the story that
ends begins happily ever after—theirs ends in the perpetuation of tragedy.
What’s your story? Do you want it to be in the Lamb’s Book of Life or tragically thrown into the book of nameless tragic never-endings?
Go on, read ahead. You can choose your ending.
I hope when your final page of this story has turned that those who read it will be able to marvel that you held out for the Hero.
We got to meet Miss Ella Mae Bowen backstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN one February eve a year or two ago. She’s chosen to hold out for a Hero. I think she’s got the right idea…
Also Shared here.