Today, Jim used an example about chapters in life. He didn't get into it, but for some reason it really stood out to me. Chapters. We know the term and we use it so often in describing many things-where we are in life, where we were, and where we may be in the future.
I thought about books. Obviously we would think that when the word 'chapter' is being used. I thought how the chapters of books so often parallel lives. We tend to divide our lives into sections. For some, there are the chapters of being single, a new chapter for when we are married, have children and then there are even chapters reserved for the future-perhaps retirement or a new adventure that we know is coming. For Christians, we often hear people categorize their lives as a chapter or chapters before they came to know the Lord. That was one chapter, then new chapters arise as they walk with the Lord, follow after Him and journey along the road where He leads them.
Think about an adventurous novel. Think how when you read a book it is usually exciting at first-especially if you are fond of the author. You grab a cup of tea, a warm blanket and find your little nook on the couch or snuggle up in your favorite chair and get ready to escape into the tales that await you. (can you tell it's winter and cold here) You get excited because the scene is being set. The characters are being named and identified. Usually within the first few chapters we meet each of the characters and know the role they will have throughout the book. We figure out how this person is connected with that person, what the purpose is in the main character heading out for some kind of adventure. Enthusiasm builds and we find ourselves unable to put the book down because so much is going on and we don't want to be left hanging and wondering what is going to happen next.
More often then not, what happens next? Well, I venture to say that many times we get to the middle of a novel. We get to that section that is not thrilling to read. It seems boring, we wonder why the author wasted time even putting all those sorted details in there. Perhaps we think it was just to make the book a little bigger -we cannot see the importance of the middle portion of the book. All these silly details of someone going to a shop, doing the ordinary, nothing that seems to have to do with much of anything. Surely we think the author could have just skipped all that and just got to the end.
How many of you have become bored reading a book once you get to the middle of it? It's hard to keep your attention and you may even be tempted to skip over a few chapters in hopes to get back to the exciting parts. And then........finally.......finally the author starts to get your attention again. Things start happening, some surprises, some things that we sort of expected or hoped to happen we just didn't know how it was going to work itself out. And what happens from this point forward is all leading up to the end-the final chapters.
So today I thought about life. I thought about just like a book, our lives can be categorized into chapters. We have the beginning chapters, middle and then of course the ending chapters. But, I thought about ministry too. I thought about how just like in life, we have chapters in our ministries whatever they may be. For some, like Jim and me, our ministry is overseas. We had the beginning chapters. The newness of it all where we were so excited to start writing the story of what God was doing and how He was using us. The things the Lord was teaching us as we embarked on this new chapter of our lives. It was exciting too because others were just as excited. Something new! Excitement often times begets excitement. We all have been in situations where exciting news is shared and we want to be able to share and talk about it also.
But what happens later on? It's kind of like a book-you have the 'normalcy' of life. The chapters of the ministry where it is slow, mundane, seemingly day after day the 'filler' pages. The pages that aren't so interesting for others to read about. The excitement others once had for you has now been replaced with something else, something newer. You feel as though the chapters of your book are not important to anyone any more and they just lay aside the 'book' for another time. Just as people get bored with reading a book when they get to the middle, they can get bored with people or ministries when it doesn't seem like anything exciting is taking place.
Yet, we know that just like with most books, there is a purpose for the 'middle chapters' There is a reason, albeit sometimes only known to the author, for those middle pages. There is a story to be told, there is a connection between the first chapters and the last chapters. We may not see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. There has to be a beginning, a middle and and end.
Even our bibles have the same set-up. There is a beginning....Genesis. There is an end....Revelation. Yet, between those 'chapters' is so much more. Can you imagine if the Holy Spirit didn't inspire all the rest of the bible? All the lives and lessons we would miss out on because there weren't those 'middle' pages in between Creation and Christ coming again. Would it have been enough? Well, I suppose since it is God's Word it would have been enough-but we wouldn't have all those amazing verses underlined to help us through each day. We wouldn't have the record of those whose lives we can so relate to to remind us of our loving and forgiving Savior.
I feel like we need to be reminded not to get bored with things, with people, with ministries. We live in a world that moves so quickly. I tell you I cannot even watch tv when I am home because it just moves so quickly that I cannot understand what is happening. My brain doesn't process things that fast anymore! Society wants to tell us to just get rid of the old and bring in the new. Think about the phone system in the US-oh you have had your phone for 2 yrs already-that is way too long, you MUST get a new one!
So, what's the point of all this? Well, I suppose it is that we try hard not to get bored with our ministries, with other people's ministries, with our friends, with life in general. Change is good and we all need it when the time is right. But, there is something to be said for steadfastness. There is something to be said for faithfulness. All of us are going to experience 'the middle chapters' in life. We will experience them in our personal lives, in our jobs, in our ministries, in whatever things we are involved in. I don't think any of us want to go through them alone. None of us wants people to get bored with us and set us aside just because we may not be as exciting as we once were. Let's all be willing to cheer one another on through the middle chapters. Let's all be those who don't give up on whatever we are called to do just because the middle pages seem redundant and boring.
There is a new chapter coming for each of us. God is the author of our lives and just as He planned a beginning, and the years in between, He is planning the final chapters. We all know as His children that it is going to be a glorious chapter. Sometimes I get so excited about the end that I want to forego the middle stuff and just get right to the chapter where I am home with my Jesus. But, he wants us to know that even though we don't understand the middle chapters, they are there for a reason. He has a purpose and a plan. He has given us His Word that all things will work together for good-and that means even the ho-hum chapters we think we could do without. Don't be in a hurry to skip chapters to get to the end. I think in the end we will often times see that those middle chapters were the ones used to form us into the people God wants us to be :)