Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stories Without Endings

2012 is coming to a close, and as such, we’ll now be inundated with profound and deep reflections spattering over the internet and coffee shops. Reporters and blogs will stand, hands on their hips, glancing at the months past and naming off the Top Ten of movies, disasters, new recipes, and clothing styles. We’ll discuss the economy and foreign relations; we’ll marvel at our kitchen improvements and how our children have grown. We’ll twitter and facebook and analyze until we can, with a wave of satisfaction, tie up year 2012 with a large sparkly bow, and place it’s neatly boxed accomplishments onto a shelf. 2012, we beam, can now finally have its ‘happily ever after.’

In our western world, we like having endings to our stories—we like knowing the outcome and the results and the relief of reading that final “the end.” We like watching the hero battle through the climax and receive his just reward once the dragon is dead and the princess is rescued. We like seeing the fruit of our labors and counting the last twine-wrapped stack of hay tucked into the loft. We like conclusions and finales and the last termination…we shoot off fireworks and throw parties and create closure.

We like endings to our stories.

But, despite our best attempts, the world does not operate with endings. Time was given a start, but we will live into eternity. The events of people’s lives do not arch with the logic of our story-schema taught in schools, and it is only rarely that we have the chance to see that final period.

I find myself encountering this all the time, and I wonder if it is even further exacerbated by the unfinished stories of the mission field. If you follow this blog at all, then you know that I write, and I write a lot. In fact, if you count up all the other publications and things I write for, the number of words that I peck out in a week on my computer skyrockets into orbit. And, of course, the topic that everyone always wants to hear more and more about are the stories of people here in Papua New Guinea—how they are impacted, how lives are changing, what God is doing in this beautiful land. So, I do my best and interview fellow missionaries and ferret out possibilities and keep my ears open for intriguing quotes…but rarely do I ever discover the outcome. And so, the questions start rolling in: What happened to that woman? Where did those men end up? How has the Bible impacted her life? Did he ever come to Christ?

And I don’t have an answer. People come and go in our lives, and I have the privilege of glimpsing for an instant the story that the Great Author is weaving together that allowed our paths to cross, but it is only a peep, a quick look before the curtain is drawn shut again. Those stories of change and transformation are stories of years and of lifetimes, which means that for now, her story, his story, remain unfinished and our questions linger unanswered.

But, perhaps it is better that way. The unwritten pages leave us in hope and in curiosity to see what our Lord might do next. It is as Aslan explained in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis when Aravis asked about the fate of a slave that was beaten on her account: “Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

We live in a world of unfinished stories, and I imagine, if you didn’t know the Author, that would be a very terrifying thing—a nebulous, onward drift into an unknown existence of nothingness. But thankfully, there is one End that we can be certain of, and His coming is one of great joy:

“Look, I am coming soon.... I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 22:12–13)