(spoiler alert: major plot points of Jane Eyre are revealed in this post)
I re-read books.
I love to re-read books.
There are some books that have been such intimate friends over the years that I can pull one off the shelf, open it to any page, and immediately be transported to the world of my favorite character, the colors and details as vivid as a movie playing on a screen.
Sometimes I read selfishly, savoring the first half of the book, the build, the love story when the love is still new and unblemished, when the characters are still true to themselves and each other, and then I stop.
I stop before time travel moves from excitement to terrifying for Henry and Clare in the Time Traveler’s Wife. I click off my book light before Jane Eyre leaves Mr. Rochester and spends months in pain instead of newfound joy.
And then I flip to the end. I have the right to do it, I’ve already read the book in hand a dozen times, suffered with her, I’ve earned the right to skip if I want to.
But the end is never as exhilarating if I skip the hard parts.
The first time I walked with Jane toward Mr. Rochester when they finally meet again-well, there weren’t any words for that moment. Together we’d chosen starvation over sin and then faced the temptation to forsake our hearts altogether for a life and marriage without love. I might smile and nod happily when I skip those parts and turn to the last chapter, but take away the hard parts and where’s the story that stole my heart to begin with?
I’ve begun to see my own story in the same way. What is my story without this middle part?
I spend a lot of time running away from pain, either present pain, or past pain, anxious to get to “the good part”. But when I look back at my story of 34 years, which parts do I skip? The past that I once wished to leave closed, present chapters included, are all intricately connected. Events, moments of impact that once (and sometimes still) cause me to cry out, “Why?”, don’t make any sense as individual stories.
When I look back now they resemble the extreme dot to dot that my 11 year old finished last week. 636 dizzying dots that eventually revealed a complete picture. I don’t know the number of days of my life so I don’t know how many dots are left to connect, but enough to know that God’s plan has been purposeful, not one extraneous dot in this book. Each moment has brought me a little more faith, trust, love, and hope, sometimes while the pain is fresh and sometimes later.
“You cannot amuptate your history from your destiny..my past is something Jesus takes hold of and makes into a destiny. That’s called redemption.”
While reading someone else’s painful story this week, I felt challenged to be a steward of my story, instead of running from it. (A confirmation of a glimmer already burning.) As I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book about the accidental death of her 5 year old daughter, she spoke of God making her and her whole family a steward of their story. What an amazing response to the pain allowed into their life (deeper pain than I’ve ever experienced). And they have done just that, through their lives, through their books, through their music, through the ophan house built in the name of their daughter. They didn’t hide, they opened their story to the world, hard parts included.
I’m not supposed to keep running away from my own story, and I have to figure out exactly what that means for me.
But I can tell you the beginning and the end right now. Because it’s your story too. It’s a story of running and a story of being pursued.
Here’s The Beginning, told through the lyrics of Caleb Chapman.
You run as far as you can from love/
And here’s The End for each of us:
You can’t escape my heart/
Cause my heart runs to the ends of the world/
I’ll fight for you/
I’ll fight until I die for you/
you can’t escape my heart
to the ends of the world
you can’t escape my heart
(from Caleb Chapman’s new album To The Ends of The World, which continues their story)
What story has God made you a steward of?