Sometimes, there are no happy endings. Scratch that. Many times, there are no happy endings. We need look no further than the world around us: that car accident we may have passed on the way to work, the cat’s corpse laying dead in the street (some would say this isn’t a bad thing. Tell that to the child whose cat this was), the death of a spouse, parent, grandparent, friend… a marriage’s end. These are not happy tidings. No, this is more par for the course in this place the Scriptures term a “vale of tears.” Life isn’t fair, things don’t work out the way we want.
In this, we find ourselves in august company:
Abraham, who looked forward to the promise, yet died before it was fulfilled.
Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed, living there in Sodom.
Moses, who through anger, lost the Promised Land.
David, whose hands were too blood-soaked to build the temple he longed to erect as testament to his love of God.
Solomon, who despite his much-vaunted wisdom, piddled away his kingdom via compromise.
Yesterday, I wrote of being disappointed in the movie Oblivion. This stems, I think, from its kitschy, tacked-on happy ending. I understand why Hollywood is in love with the happy ending–it’s embedded deep within us. Somewhere, buried down deep in our marrow, we know the world as it is is not how it’s always been. Call it Eden–call it what you will–we know there was once something better, instinctively that we are something more. Hence our love of fairy tales, of happy endings. Thing is, as John Eldredge says, we live in the Third Act of history. The in-between. There’s no going back to what once was, but the Fourth Act has not yet begun. We’re stuck between the now, and the not-yet. Every happy ending we posit is a kind of wish fulfillment–either a looking back, or a questing ahead. We try to regain what we’ve lost, or grab hold of what’s not here yet.
But it never quite works out.
Truth be told, God has a way of shattering our illusions. The truth is: life is hard, and then we die.
But in dying we find life.
That is the truth of the Gospel. It has the quality of fairy tale, but it is no mere wish fulfillment. Christ had to die, else there would be no resurrection.
Likewise, sometimes (oftentimes) our hopes, dreams, all that we have lived for, given our lives to has to die as well… For God to bring new life.
Yet we fight Him, wanting our happy ending now–without putting in the hard work. Lest we forget: Christ emptied Himself of divinity, became a cluster of cells, a zygote, an embryo, and squalling shitting baby (no matter what Martin Luther tells us about “no crying He makes.” He lied). From infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to young man–all the while learning from, and being obedient to, His parents. By all accounts, He learned the trade of carpenter from his stepfather, Joseph. By all accounts, though not included in Holy Writ, He lost Joseph sometime before His earthly ministry began. Think on it! The Holy One, God the Son, born in ignominy, toiling in obscurity: He emptied Himself of all divinity.
And eventually humbled Himself to become obedient to death on the cross!
“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” And He “learned obedience through those things which He suffered. ”
Think on that! Christ, God the Son, learning obedience! That is the crux:
Sometimes (oftentimes), happy endings have to die, privations must be endured, for joy’s sake.
Make no mistake: there will be a consolation of history. But we are not there yet. Like Job–like Jesus before us–we must patiently endure.
Until the faith shall become sight.
Sacrifices must be made, hopes will fade, and dreams will die. But “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” The trick is, in this vale of tears, to keep the true light alive:
Fan the embers into flames, my friends. Go with God, and walk in the light.