I recently picked up a book my son was reading and flipped through it, noticing that a number of pages were folded down. Curious, I asked him why he did it.
“Because those are all my favorite parts,” he responded.
He’s a boy after my own heart because I do the same thing. I dog-ear and mark up my books so I can go back and reread my favorite parts. In some books though, there are no pages folded down. In those books, I found myself editing as I read, thinking of ways I would have written it differently, parts I would have added and scenes I would have deleted altogether.
Reading our Life’s Story
When it comes to the story of my own life, I have many dog-eared pages, times in my life that I like to reread. But I also have chapters I never want to revisit. I often wonder why the Author included those chapters and how they fit into the greater story. When I begin a new and difficult chapter in my life, I’m tempted to mark up the pages and send it back for revision. But I can’t because the story has already been published (Psalm 139:16). And unlike all the other books I read, I can’t skip ahead the pages of my life to see what happens next.
The difference between the Author of my story and any other book I read is that I know the Author personally. I know that he is good and I can trust him. And though I don’t know what’s going to happen in every forthcoming scene, I do know the past and what will happen ultimately. Scripture gives me the backstory and a vision of where we’re headed. I know how the world came to be, how sin came into the Garden, and what God has done about it — and has promised to do about it.
Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites were encouraged to follow the story God had written. They were to look back at their exodus from slavery, God’s provision in the wilderness, and his promises fulfilled in delivering them to the Promised Land. They celebrated this story each year in festivals and feasts. They taught this story to their children. Their prophets reminded them of their story. When they faced heartache and trials, they reviewed their story together. They even prayed through the story in confession of sin (Nehemiah 9). They remembered God’s faithfulness, his covenant keeping, and his great mercy toward them.
“Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.” (Psalm 105:5–9)
Remembering God’s Story
When we come to a page or chapter in our life that makes no sense, we also need to remember and follow God’s story. Though we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, we do know what happened in the past and what will ultimately happen in the new heavens and new earth. Like the Israelites, we can follow the story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation.
We know the Author of this story, and we trust him.
Creation: When life isn’t going right when pain ad grief surrounds us, it’s because we know that things are not the way they should be. The story of Creation explains how God created everything good and perfect. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate communion with their Maker. Their relationship with each other was also filled with complete intimacy, honesty, love, joy, and peace. Feelings of shame and guilt were non-existent. The desire we have for completeness, wholeness, and peace are reminders that things are not as God created them to be.
Fall: When our heart cries out, “This isn’t fair!” and when we ache with unfulfilled dreams, are weary from the pains of living in this world, and our struggle with sin overwhelms us, we can look back to the Fall. The story of what happened in the garden, Satan’s lies and Adam and Eve’s subsequent sin, explains how we got to where we are. All that was perfect and good was broken the day they desired to be like God and bit into the flesh of the fruit God told them not to eat. Sin and shame then entered the world. Ever since each and every person is born a sinner. The curse of sin spread beyond humans, infecting the physical creation as well. Sickness and disease, hunger and famine, floods and violent storms, are all the result of that first sin.
Redemption: But the story doesn’t end there. We can follow God’s redemptive plan to save and restore us back to himself. Like the Israelites, we can remember our own exodus from slavery to sin, God’s provision of a Savior, and his fulfilled promises through Jesus. From Genesis 3:15 to the end of Scripture, we have the story of Redemption laid out in rich detail. Every page unfolds God’s glorious plan to rescue and redeem, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.
Restoration: John’s vision of the future in Revelation gives us hope and glimpses of the full glory and restoration that is yet to come. This life is temporary; eternity awaits us. Jesus will return to create new heavens and a new earth. The sin and sorrow that we endure in this life will be no more, and we will live forever in our glorified bodies, praising the One who has redeemed us.
The story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation is one we need to read often. It’s the story of God’s faithfulness and goodness. And because we know the Author of the story personally and we trust his will, we can watch the story of our lives unfold with wonder and awe. Even when we get to a scene that is confusing or seems out of place, we can remember, wait, and watch, knowing that the storyline is moving forward to a beautiful and glorious end. Jesus made it so when he signed the manuscript with his own blood and said, “It is finished!”