We laughed, we dreamed, we imagined. I love that I can still do these things with this woman after 20 years of marriage. She is my bride, young and beautiful. She is more wise than the girl I married years ago, made so by trial and heartache, challenge and adversity. But her deep blue eyes still twinkle joyfully and her hands are soft within mine. We recounted the joys of our years together. We reminisced some of the dark times and how amazing it was that we survived these. We recalled the wonders of the miracles that God had worked in our lives in our children, our marriage, and our home. We marveled at how different we were and yet how perfect we still found ourselves to be for each other.
Then we began to take note of the people God had brought into our lives. Friendships, deep and true, had been forged with profound depth and commonality. My bride likes to say "these are our people - these are the people we 'do life' with". In discussing we articulated how perfect for each other these married friends of ours seemed. How God had seemingly perfectly matched their personalities and giftings as well. We are fortunate to have a tribe of close friends who fit this description. Then my bride said something that stuck with me. "They were meant to be together, they're bookends."
Bookends. Complimentary objects designed to contain. In the case of my bride's statement two people so perfectly matched they were easily marked for the their complimentary nature and the life they, together, contained between. In pondering my own marriage I find that the script of our life together is not a book in process, but rather volumes in process. Chapters with interweaving plot points are continually updated and added. The book of our early years is slim. The tome of parenthood is far thicker and a work continually being written as we daily script triumphs and failures trying our best to raise the next generation. An addendum of foster-care and adoption was added some years back, another work in process. Some pages are dark and I would tear them out if I could but this would leave holes in the narrative of us. Some pages are my favorite, but do not paint the entirety of the story. It is the collection that is the definitive work of our lives, the collection between the bookends.
This, too, is true of each of us individually. We are each of us a collection. Some chapters are dark and foreboding. Some should be forgotten and not opened again. Some are worth visiting often. Some are a delight and cause us to be proud of achievements garnered, choices made, and paths trodden. Some cause us to marvel either at our own ineptitude or at the miracle of divine intervention in our lives.
Though we visit the pages often, we cannot live in those pages again. They have already been written. The text of our lives is ever unfolding whether it be a poem, a song, or story of hardship. Ever the script flows and ever it evolves with us. Others catch glimpses of it. Some get a synopsis. A very few learn the details of the text. Only one knows every word and punctuation better than we do. He holds the quill.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
When we are certain we are destined to write a tragedy, he is the one who has seen the entirety. He is the hero interwoven throughout the story, chapter by chapter, volume by volume, ever present. He knows the last word from the first letter of our lives. His perspective is complete. Tears birth redemption, heartache brings forth joy. Death is swallowed by life. His is the final word in the story because he is the word who took on skin.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
If we'll let him define the parameters of our lives we find that regardless of the script written - the collection of our triumphs, failures, joys, and tragedies - the chapters of our lives will ultimately culminate in the text he has written for us, the volumes he has prepared for us to live out. Each of these has a place in our lives, beginning to end. There will be dark chapters, there will be joyous chapters, there will be chapters of achievement and chapters of seemingly little consequence. We may lose ourselves in the pages and question the direction of the storyline. This is where the author asks us to trust him with the plot, for he truly does have the most perfect of endings ready to reveal.
And one day, we will look back and appreciate the texts between the bookends.