I’ve been listening to audiobooks a lot on my phone while I work.
One thing I’m listening to is the Bible. There seems to be so much disconnect between stories. Between books, generations, thoughts.
How is a lay person supposed to understand the gap between Malachi and Matthew?
Or that Job happened some time back in Moses’s time?
Or the incredible darkness of much of the Old Testament?
Just now I’m reading one of the most beautiful parts of the Bible, the first coming of Jesus. But even then , it breaks so sharply on the scene of the darkness after Malachi. Something about striking the earth with a curse.
Then there is the last book of the Bible. Revelations. Fire falling on the earth and then two brief chapters about heaven.
Memories. The paperback The Greatest Story Ever Told lying on a wooden church bench. A painting of Jesus on the front curled cover. The peeling paint on the bench.
I remember thinking the title was beautiful. The painting was also beautiful. I remember thinking Jesus healing people and coming and dying for our sins was beautiful. But as a comprehensive story?
Yes, it’s there. There’s the beginning, the middle, and the end. There’s a climax. There’s the storm before the calm. There’s heaven. No more tears. Romance even. The bride in glorious white.
But there is no denying the broken way this story is told. Long periods of silence from heaven. Even longer periods of mankind completely rebelling against reason and love to wallow in the awful consequences.
The ugly consequences.
The hideous consequences of their own way, their own sin. Their own deplorable-ness.
Beautiful things punctuating the darkness of mankind with their light. All good things coming from above but so seldom received and rarely requested. Here and there. Lights. Like driving underneath a train track, the light through the little openings in the tracks flashing briefly and convincingly upon your face, letting you know the sun still exists.
Stories. How I’ve always loved them. “No story has a happy ending,” someone once told me. “Something always happens after that. Happy endings are unrealistic.”
But the greatest story of all time ends with no tears being in heaven. Reunion. Joy.
The nail-pierced hands of Jesus shepherding his children in tender, joyful reunion.
All knees bowing to the real King. All children restored to life and health. Jesus carrying them in his arms.
But why are there so many untold things? So many things hard to understand. So many silences? So much confusion? So much darkness? There are other stories outside of it that fill me with unspeakable joy, certainly stories that are better told as a whole.
Then, in a flash of either heresy or inspiration, I realized the story was not over. It wasn’t finished.
C.S. Lewis and Tolkien believe that all beautiful stories tell the Greater Story. That in the Greatest Story Ever Told, all stories about love and death and resurrection come true.
They come true.
So we need these stories. We needed those stories that made us sit on the edge of our seat as children. Will the hero best the villain? Will the lovers be reunited? Will the knight come riding up over the hill? We longed and hoped and jumped up with a cry of victory at the end, knowing that all was right with the world and God was still in his heaven.
We tell a million variations of the Greatest Story of All Time.
But why, I always wondered, when I read Lewis and Tolkien, why do we need these stories? I agreed that we did, but I didn’t know quite why. If the Greatest Story of All Time is the meaning of all Little Stories, then why not just read the Greatest Story of All Time?
Because, I realized. We can’t.
It isn’t finished yet.
You can’t read the story that lies, unfinished by the Greatest Author of all, in His loving and creative heart. Like a passionate author with too much that cannot yet be understood, bits and pieces of shining light were penned here and there. Long silences in between. Disconnects between generations and stories and books. The first coming of Jesus itself a jarring and beautiful change from 400 years of silence after a dismal ending about coming to smite the earth with a curse.
Bible scholars who spend a lifetime telling you what it all means miss the point. Sometimes they say great and helpful things, but they still miss the point.
The point is, it cannot all be understood because it isn’t finished yet. Hundreds of years or doctrinal argument look small and silly next to this realization. We are like scholars, each holding on to a fragment of the script and arguing about who knows God’s mind the best.
Arguing because they believe God’s whole mind and heart is in between the covers of that Blessed Book.
But it’s not. A book cannot hold the entire mind and love of God.
Because it tells a story that isn’t finished yet. One day, the Author will come riding up over the hill.
He’ll wipe away all tears. He’ll reunite all that have loved beyond this world. He’ll make all things new. And at last, He’ll pick up the pen and finish every unfinished, unresolved word that life has ever spoken.
Just like all the stories we love.