Shadows on the pale, yellowed parchment flicker underneath the illumination of a burning wick. The scritch, scritch, scratch of the sharpened feather tip scrapes across the page, as a withered hand grips the quill tightly– almost as if it was a part of him, the ink pulsating through his veins and the story is what is making him tick…
In my first year of teacher-training, I really began to grasp the revelation of God being the author of my life story. That gave me courage in some of my darkest moments to proclaim “I know the end of the story, I’ll come out from the wilderness, leaning on my Beloved!” (Jon ThurlowStrong Love). Those ‘wilderness’ times last year were key for building character, for gaining perseverance and hope. The fact that I could hold on to that truth helped me put those intense moments of first-year schoolwork deadlines and homesickness into perspective.
Yet… what if He doesn’t have a set end, or even how to get there? What if your choices have much to do with what is going to happen to you, too? What if something bigger is really going on beyond you? What if you are told to WAIT and you don’t have any “prophetic words” to hold on to? What if you don’t know what you are doing? What if those provoking questions are really the ones will cause you to go deeper?
I don’t know the answer to all of those. That’s the very reason I ask them, and that’s big for me. I didn’t used to ask questions concerning my story. I thought everything was pretty much set in stone and I could do nothing except pirouette in a pretty pink dress and try to survive those wilderness moments of work overload without heart-failure. That didn’t seem to work this year.
What do you do when you start your placement in a classroom and you feel like you’re drowning? What happens when your tutor teacher asks you concernedly whether you actually want to be a teacher, because it doesn’t look like it? What do you do when you realize that you’re not going back to your hometown for a awhile? What do you do when the people you are endeavoring to serve at your school complain about attending the assembly you lead?  What if it feels like your flame is about to blow out?
Scritch, scritch, scratch scrapes the nib on the parchment. Rich black ink bleeds into the sinews of paper and words unfold, revealing what the author is writing…

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, 

and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Life really sucks if we have an only-now perspective. We will have sorrow now! So have hope for the future. Yet there’s the flopsy irony of the presence of so much joy in the present, too. Bookends and clean closets and blustery wind on a blue day… I mean, I wonder what on earth is going on with the end of Term 3 and only a handful of weeks before the end of my whole second year of teacher training… I wonder what’s going on with relationships and I wonder what’s going on with family and I wonder what’s going on with friends. I wonder what’s going on in my story… and all I’m told to do is “Wait”. That really sucks– if I take my eyes of the author.

As I tiptoe further on this road of following Jesus, the more and more I am convinced how much of it is perspective. Relationship with God is not the absence of trials or enemies, but instead, a different way of looking at them. I know we’ve all heard this before, and I kick myself for saying something so concernedly “generic”. But the questions about perspective you have are escorts into something deeper, of finally seeing beyond the up-close grossness that happens when you absolutize one one page. I mean, if you were watching The Lord of the Rings and stopped the whole movie on one moment where an orc was stabbing an elf warrior, you wouldn’t be too keen on that story, would you. 

What am I trying to say? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out as I go. And maybe God writes like that, too, not all grippy and controlling, always knowing exactly where to go and we have no choice but to read He says. Not to say that He doesn’t have a plan, or doesn’t know what He’s doing. Far from it. But I think we need to give Jesus a little slack from being a control freak. At least do. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV). He chose partnership with us and therefore we are not robots running around to the push of a red button. We love Him. Surely we could start acting like it, by remembering He doesn’t force to get us to do His will, because He wants our hearts, not our compliance. Obedience is key, yes. But nothing compared to our hearts willing in love… the type of love that looks after us even if we don’t  realize we need looking after…

The old man is bent over his writing desk as the last wax drips down the waning candle. The chapter is almost finished, but the novel nowhere near through. Dark burgundy shadows blur the detail of the walls around, flickering around the balding head, consuming the room. Will the candle expire, puff out in a twirling, despairing swirl of smoke? Will he put down his pen in time to light the fire again? Or will the darkness take over? The candle is sputtering threateningly.

He calmly puts down his quill. There may be a chapter to come that the reader doesn’t understand, but there is a flame needing tending to. He will not leave it alone– the readers will just have to wait while he lights it again. An ink-stained hand slips into his vest pocket, pulling out an aging matchbox. It’s filled to the brim with those miniature fire-starters, those tiny dark-consumers, those magnificent light-prevailers. Choosing one ever so carefully, a forefinger and thumb strike it to a spark. He shields the flame with his left hand, and holds the match up to the dying wick. Coaxing it to life… it flickers, flutters, falters– then bursts into the highest spiral of light he has ever seen.

The light prevails. 

The story goes on. 

Readers, don’t let your flame go out. With all of the worry of the future, with all your planning, with all you trying to script your own story, do not neglect to tend to your flame.

Let Him look after you. 

It’s only then we will have joy. 

Photo credit: Google images, Empower Network.