The End of the Story
Sometimes we don’t get the ending to the story that we wanted.
Sometimes it looks like death has the last say.
But that’s when we have to shut our eyes and remember that the ending to the story here isn’t the final word.
Kathy Elizabeth Bonds McDaniel didn’t have the ending to the her story that we all so desperately wanted. That I wanted.
I didn’t want to watch an ambulance drive away with my friend and neighbor, knowing she would never step foot in her house again.
I didn’t want to walk in the lobby of a hospital, push “4” for the hospice floor, and walk into room 417 to say goodbye to a beautiful young mother of three children.
I didn’t want to get her husband’s text at 7:35am last Tuesday morning that Kathy had slipped into the arms of Jesus at 2:09am earlier that morning. I just didn’t want to.
I didn’t want that kind of ending.
But I didn’t get to write the story.
But the One who writes all of our stories left us words to reflect on and remember, to trust and to believe, and to give our hearts great comfort and hope in the midst of great sorrows He knew would inevitably come. These words were read at the service celebrating Kathy’s life last Friday morning: “‘Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.‘ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me'” (John 14:1-6).
Here is the amazing part: according to Jesus’ words in John 14, Kathy’s story is just beginning. She left her earthly house to go to her Father’s House, to be received by her Father’s Son, Jesus, and to live the rest of eternity fully healed, fully fulfilled, made fully whole and new, redeemed and restored in His Presence. Not a bad ending to her story.
But it’s the rest of us who are left here who have to adjust to the ending and learn to live life with one foot firmly planted in our earthly homes, the good places God has put us to grow, flourish, live, work, and bring His rule and His reign in the here and now, and with one foot firmly planted in Heaven, the Home where all those who love King Jesus and long for His appearing are headed and where Kathy is now.
I’m trying to adjust to this ending. I’m not used to (and will I ever get used to?) Kathy’s presence missing from across the street.
And I’m not sure how to live in the wake of the ending to this story. How do I, and how does her husband, and how do her children, and parents, and close knit community of family and friends, live in the every day reality of a story that leaves our hearts torn rather than mended? Bruised rather than healed? Battered rather than bandaged?
I don’t know. But the prophet Hosea must have had to learn to walk through an ending to a story he wasn’t expecting or wanting when he wrote the words, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3).
Pressing on isn’t a magical formula. It isn’t a magic wand waved over us that makes our hearts whole, healed, and mended from the tearing. Pressing on is a long obedience in the same direction. It’s an every day decision to wake up and put the right foot in front of the left foot and to walk down the path of the God who will come to us as we choose to walk in His ways and trust in His character even when we don’t understand the ending to the story.
So that’s what I’m planning to do today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.
I’m planning on putting one foot in front of the other every morning when I wake up. I’m planning on turning to His Word and reading and soaking in its words when I’m tempted to listen to words of despair. I’m planning on meditating on and trusting in His goodness every time I look out the front door of my house and see Kathy’s house and achingly miss her presence. I’m planning on opening my heart wide to the pain of the ending of this story and to the pursuit of God in the midst of this story knowing that, as Kathy told me several weeks ago, “The God of the Sunrise” will come and dawn over our hearts, ushering in the grace and the power and the hope and the faith and the love that we need so that we can trust the One who wrote the story, knowing His ending and His final word will bring more healing, more grace, more goodness, more mercy, and more redemption than we could ever possibly imagine not only here, but in our Home to come.
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