Our life is like a book with chapters. If we’ve written many chapters already, we may look back and feel as if we were different persons in each of those chapters. In a sense we were; as we matured, we assumed different roles in the various chapters (seasons) of our life.
We’re always told not to read the final chapter of a book to see how it turned out, but to wait and be surprised. The Mother of Jesus was unique, however, because God gave her a prophetic peek through old Simeon at the Presentation of baby Jesus in the temple. He revealed one of the later chapters of her life that would pierce her heart. You and I aren’t privy to such a revelation; perhaps it is best that we are spared that glimpse. Either we would be too eager to reach the happy ending of our life story—or drag our feet if we knew in advance about some trial that is to come.
If you are a bookworm like I am, you too may like to inhale books. As a writer, I guess I think in chapters. I love to read all kinds of books, especially biographies and dramatic New York Times bestsellers, if they are clean. If I have any addiction, it is that I pig out when I read a book—once started, I overeat it. I swallow it whole, gobble it up almost at one sitting. I’m compelled to read it to the finish. Let the world go by; nothing else will get done. And I insist on having another good book waiting in the wings to start reading right away.
Oh, then I feel guilty for not redeeming the time, and I decide to pray and fast from such pleasure reading for long periods—like during Lent. Yes, I can do it with God’s help, for awhile. But if I so much as yield to the temptation and leaf through another novel that has been lying there just beckoning to me, I’m hooked again! Like an alcoholic, I can’t take just one sip; I can’t take a ten minute reading snack. I’m off again on my long pleasure cruise. So much for confession.
My original point is that our lives are like the chapters in a book, a biography. You start with the front matter, the background stuff that launches you, like the Acknowledgments, Foreword, and Introduction, maybe a Preface. God has already predetermined the setting, chosen your DNA, and the circumstances where the drama will take place. He ordained the plot and the characters who will interact with you in life. It’s going to be a real page-turner, for sure!
Each chapter is separate and chronologically progressive. No single chapter is the whole book; the plot keeps unfolding, so don’t get bent out of shape how things are portrayed in a particular chapter, like the one you are living in right now. God is at work developing the whole exciting adventure story of your life. Don’t despair half way through. Just hang in there…everything will pass. The kids who are in diapers now will walk down the aisle in cap and gown and later in wedding apparel. The stuff you worry about which you don’t think you can possibly live through, you may not even remember when you’re living in the next chapter.
You can probably anticipate a generous basketful of serendipity times and events and adventures that will contribute to the fulfilling of your dreams. And a ton of ordinary days and events. The trivial stuff and humdrum routines are said to be the building blocks to develop your holiness. Mary surely must have had many joyful but ordinary homespun times with Joseph and her son Jesus as He was growing up; not all things they said and did would have been earth-shaking and serious. Since life is made up of so many commonplace daily doings, enjoy each chapter in the now and treasure the beloved characters who are living it with you. In your life book some characters will come and others will go. Keep offering up all things joyful and painful to God and accept His big plan for your life story. Live fully in the present chapter until God turns the page to the next chapter.
There are times in life when you may think you have surely reached the last chapter and God must be getting ready to close your book. Don’t be so sure! As I approached my eightieth year, I thought I had written the final chapter in my literally about-to-be-published autobiography. What more could God possibly have left for me to experience in life? Little did I know that not one but several more incredible chapters (and another book or two or more) were about to unfold. I was right on the verge of what I consider the greatest faith paradigm change of my life—I became a Catholic Christian after a lifetime as a Protestant evangelical missionary, teacher, writer, and broadcaster.
Let's always be eager for God’s breathtaking, fantastic surprises in your next chapter! As a Christian of any age, no matter how many or how few chapters you have lived through, or how many different roles you have played, you can look forward to a grand Epilogue, a fitting climax, even after God writes the last chapter in your earthly life story—it will be Eternity in the Presence of the Blessed Trinity! As they say, “The best is yet to come!” So celebrate each chapter as a gift from God!