I should probably have saved this topic for two weeks from now, when, if all goes well, I'll reach the end of my manuscript. But I'd probably forget by then, so . . . ;-)
I'm an optimist. I can find hope in anything. That's probably why I love stories of romance--you just can't beat a happily ever after. And, frankly, if a book doesn't have one, chances are I'm not that crazy about it. Not to say I don't approve of other endings, think they're perfect--but rare is the book that makes it onto my favorites shelf with a less-than-blissful ending. It's happened. But it takes one heck of an author.
And it's also why so much of the Old Testament leaves me with an aching heart, especially reading the books about the kings of Israel and Judah. Going through all those chronicles with my daughter, she asks constantly as she's trying to keep the names straight, "So which king was he? Did he love God?"
And so often my answer has to be, "No." Or worse still, "He did when he was young, but then he caught up in his money and his glory and worshiped Baal. He forgot about God."
Xoe, bless her sweet spirit, will always look up at me with those big blue eyes of her and ask, "But how could he forget God? God saved him!"
She's so right. At six, she understands the simplicity of it and doesn't see the complication. At six, she sees only the "happily" and not the "ever after." And I wish, oh how I wish, I could toss a "The End" into some of those stories halfway through. Stop it where it's still happy. Ignore the depressing epilogue.
But I can't, because I have to teach my kids that getting to that one big moment isn't enough in life. It doesn't stop when we reach one goal, do one great thing for the Lord. We don't have just one volume, with one climax. One neat resolution. No, we have to press ever onward. Because "the end" doesn't come until the end.
I shake my head at the critics at romance who mock our beloved happily-ever-after because of these very reasons. And my head-shaking is valid. Because, hello, who wants to read a gazillion-page novel that tracks a person from birth to death? No thanks. I want my novels to entertain and inspire. And those stories, those endings, serve to get me from big moment to big moment in life. They help me remember what can happen. Over and again. Time after time. Volume after volume.
But so often, I think we pray for the short term. Just one good thing, Lord. Just send me one good thing. But as I reread those Old Testament stories, they're making me look farther. Pray for good lives for my loved ones, not good turns. Good ends, with middles that lead them there. I'm praying, now, for endurance and fortitude.
Blessings come, and I praise the Lord for them. Crises come, and I pray to the Lord through them. But between climaxes, between resolutions, what am I doing? That, I think, is where those kings of old fell away. When they grew complacent. When they forgot who sent the rain, who delivered the army, who pulled away His protection and let the enemy come.
There are mountains in our life, in our faith. There are valleys.
But there are also plains. And the only way to trek across them without ending up in the land of Baal is to keep our eyes forever on the pillar of fire and smoke.
I love a good ending. But you only ever reach one in life when you realize it's a looooong journey to get there.