Cornerstone of Hope Cleveland Office’s Spiritual Care Coordinator
I had a teacher who used to say that the stories and movies that are the most popular always follow the same plot progression – it begins with something good, then has some terrible loss, or fall, and finishes with redemption. He proposed that this scenario resonates with us because it has been ingrained in us through the history of humanity. It was a pattern also followed by the loving life, violent death, and hope-filled rising of Jesus.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once noted how, if there is a tragic or unhappy scene in a drama, usually we do not walk out of the play. Instead we trust the author’s mastery to weave the plot into something redemptive. It would likewise, he argued, be wise to have the same trust with the Author of our lives and stories.
We tend to resist the difficult times in our stories, especially when it involves death. Death is a reality that is instinctively repulsive to us on a human level. Despite that we know that it is something that happens to everyone, and is undeniably in our personal future, the reality of death feels unfair and wrong. Additionally, when we look around us externally, things seem out of control. Every bit of news brings scenarios of fresh disasters, reinforcing how bad things are. We tend to focus on the fall, and lose hope in the redemption of it all.
It may be helpful to remember how confusing it must have been for those first followers of Jesus when things in their story became bleak; how they must have felt when, having believed in His words and the claim that He was God, they saw their strong leader suddenly overtaken, violently battered and killed. This was the Messiah in whom they had put their trust, who had told them not to be afraid and to believe. This was the One who was supposed to save them, the One they had hoped in. What disillusionment and doubt they must have experienced to their core. His teachings on love, seemingly superficial compared to the violence and hatred that had proved to be more intense, concrete and powerful. Was God actually good? Was He powerful? Did He exist?
Many of us current followers of Jesus are asking the same questions. God does not seem to be intervening, and we feel disillusioned in our faith.
Yet, just as the first followers of Jesus were overwhelmed by the way that God brought about Redemption – not only in spite of, but by the means of what initially appeared to be only dark and disastrous – so too we can trust that the Author of our lives has an ending to our stories that is beautiful beyond what we can imagine. And we can help to make the redemption of our lives even more glorious by the way we live in the dark period of our stories, which we can know is temporary… full of much suffering, but temporary.
C.S. Lewis touched on this when the fictional characters of his book passed into the next life: “All of their life in this world… had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning chapter one of the Great Story… which goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
This Easter, let us ask God to help us persevere through the winter and trials of this life, until we enter the period of victorious redemption, eternal happiness and the unending summer of Paradise.