Chapter and Verse

bookEach life is like a story, written slowly over time. Dotted with love and intrigue; filled with sadness and overwhelming pleasures. There is mystery, romance, adventure, a bit of self-help, and lots of drama. Some stories have many chapters – like my grandmother’s, who lived to be 102. Some stories are much too short and never have a chance to really live and breathe and be.

Our stories carry on through varied chapters. Each chapter is written just for us. Perhaps it is long, spanning many years, traveling through time with us. Taking us on fabulous adventures with trials and joys. At times they are short, ending abruptly by choice or by chance in order to take us into a new chapter. There are chapters that we wish would go on forever, others in which we are always looking for – hoping for – the ending. Just like in our favorite books, our lives have chapters we’d like to revisit and others that we wish we could skip.

Remember that chapter that you could recite word-for-word?  You revisit it in your mind as often as you can, remembering it with joy. As if you wrote it on the best linen paper with a fine quill pen. The delicate calligraphy illustrates your chapter with beautiful words that flow one to the next. You were strong, you were bold, you were humble. You were loved. And when the ink spills on the edge of the page, leaving a big ugly blotch, you just continue to write and to draw and to make an elaborate flourish of design in your chapter. You can point to it and say “see that? Yeah, it was a mistake, but look at the great thing I made from it!”

Remember that chapter you couldn’t wait to finish? The one that made you dread each turn of the page, made you beg for relief, made you almost close the whole book – finish it right then, just to stop the madness. You were beaten, you were discouraged, you were weak. When it was over you finally felt you could breathe again. It’s the one that now opens without warning, taking you back to that place you thought was closed. These are the chapters that are written so violently the pages bend to the pain, the binding is broken at that chapter. You are broken at that chapter. Our book opens to this place over and over because of the damage left in its wake.  We try to smooth it out, caressing the pages, stroking them softly to encourage their quiet placement in the story. We press on, firmly, desperately trying to hold it together so it doesn’t open there again. But it will. It always does.  Eventually we learn to live with it, to always be ready for the surprise of that chapter and, little by little, to get better at closing it up again and moving on.

I’ve had a good variety of chapters in my story – in my life. Long and short. Happy and tragic. Over time, through various circumstances some of the chapters have faded, making them harder to re-read. So I hold on to the glimpses I can remember of the experiences and places and people. Like a book growing dusty on the shelf it slowly fades into the background.

Some chapters were hard to leave behind. It was hard to let go of the people in them. We are introduced to scores of characters that build our life. I wish some of them had stayed longer – had carried through more chapters. Tear stains dot the pages where they left my story. Sometimes I bend the corner of a page – a favorite moment with them – so I can find them again quickly when my heart is in need. For some I’ve even torn out a page and pinned it to my dreams so they are never really gone.

I had chapters that fit perfectly, neatly into my story; blending nicely with all the chapters surrounding it. Occasionally I’ve had a chapter that feels out-of-place, as if it is in the wrong place, or the wrong time. Perhaps it is not meant to be my chapter. But I struggle through it, hoping to find why it has become part of my story. What does it mean? How does it fit in? For some, I’m still waiting for the answers.

I’ve had chapters that flow easily, making me feel comfortable and peaceful., only to have them abruptly altered by circumstances or characters out of my control. The sudden change is disorienting at best. Page after page I turn, hoping to reach the end – to find the start of a new chapter. The feeling of being trapped in a bad chapter is overwhelming and cold. It is dark.

The struggle of a single chapter can alter the view of an entire story. We have to fight to ensure that no chapter takes over our story. It is merely a piece, a limited view of the whole. No matter what darkness emerges in a chapter when it is opened, I have to believe there is light in the story. Even in that cold chapter that beats on for what seems like decades, I hold to the belief that there will be an end to the darkness. I have to believe the light is there, waiting for us, for our time. Without light there is no reason to continue a story. I have to believe.

Let your story be bold – in all its joys and sorrows, in its triumphs and tragedies. Embrace the mistakes and let them flourish. Accept the darkness and let it teach. Celebrate the joys with all your heart and let them carry you through the next darkness you encounter. It is your story. With its tattered edges, broken binding and dusty jacket – it is yours. Tell it with your heart.



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