(Excerpt from Ch. "My View from the Summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)
My life is like a book with chapters. I've written many chapters already. As I look back from my summit, I see myself as a different person in each of those chapters. In a sense I was; as I matured, I assumed different roles in the various chapters (seasons) of my life. At the same time, my core identity is secure; I am still me.
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. I'm not privy to such a revelation; perhaps it is best that I'm spared that glimpse. Either I would be too eager to reach the happy ending of my life story, or drag my feet if I knew in advance about some trials that are to come.
I'm a bookworm; it seems that I “inhale” books. 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 overeat when I read a book—once started, I swallow it whole, gobble it up almost at one sitting. Let the world go by; nothing else gets done while I read. And I try to have another good book waiting in the wings to start reading. I want to start on another pleasure cruise.
By contrast, my life, a biography, is only a single volume. It will not have a sequel nor will it be a series. God gives me one chance at life. Carrying through the book analogy, I start with what a publisher calls the Front Matter, the background stuff that launches me: the Acknowledgments, Foreword, Introduction, maybe a Preface. God has already predetermined the setting, chosen my DNA, and the circumstances where the drama will take place. He ordained the plot and the characters who will interact with me during my earthly life.
It’s going to be a real page-turner, for sure, but it can't be written or read in a hurry. I'm subject to space and time in this mortal life. Each chapter is separate, chronologically progressive, and must be lived fully before the next chapter unfolds. No single chapter is the whole book; the plot keeps developing, so I shouldn't get bent out of shape over how things are portrayed in a particular chapter, like the one I'm living right now. God is at work processing the whole exciting adventure story of my life; I am a work-in-progress. I must just hang in there; everything will pass. Whatever I worry about, which I don’t think I can possibly live through, I might not even remember when I'm living in the next chapter.
I can probably anticipate a generous basketful of serendipity times and events and adventures that will contribute to the fulfilling of my dreams. And a ton of ordinary days and events. The trivial non-events and humdrum routines are said to be the building blocks to develop my holiness. Mary surely must have had many joyful but ordinary, homespun times with Joseph and her son Jesus as He was growing up; not everything they said and did would have been earth-shaking and serious and worthy of being quoted even around Nazareth.
Since life is made up of so many commonplace daily doings, I shall enjoy each chapter in the now and treasure the beloved characters who are living it with me. In my biography some characters will come and others will go. I shall keep offering up all things joyful and painful to God and accept His big plot for my life story. I want to live fully in the present chapter until God turns the page to the next chapter.
There are times in my life when I might think I have surely reached the last chapter, that God must be getting ready to close my book. None of us can be sure about God's timing. 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 that I would write) were about to unfold. Little did I know that I was on the verge of what I consider the greatest faith paradigm shift of my life—I joyfully became a Catholic Christian after a lifetime as a Protestant evangelical missionary, teacher, writer, and broadcaster.
I'm always eager for God’s breathtaking, fantastic surprises in my next chapter. As a Christian, no matter how many chapters I will live through, or how many different roles I will play, I can look forward to a grand Epilogue, a fitting climax, even after God writes the last chapter in my earthly life story—it will be Eternity in the Presence of the Blessed Trinity!
As they say, “The best is yet to come!” So I celebrate each chapter as a loving gift from God!