Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. / He makes me lie down in green pastures; / he leads me beside still waters; / he restores my soul. / He leads me in right paths / for his name’s sake. / Even though I walk through the darkest valley, / I fear no evil; / for you are with me; / your rod and your staff— / they comfort me. / You prepare a table before me / in the presence of my enemies; / you anoint my head with oil; / my cup overflows. / Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me / all the days of my life, / and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord / my whole life long.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. What is the difference between my diary and my favorite book of all time, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone”?
It isn’t that one is the fantastical story of a young wizard ready to change the course of humanity and the other is an ordinary story about, well, me. And it isn’t that one is written by the most gifted story teller of our time, J.K. Rowling and the other is written by, well, me.
As far as I’m concerned the only difference between my diary and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone” is one of perspective.
You see, Harry Potter begins, “Chapter One, ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ ‘Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense’”.
On the other hand, my diary includes such entries as, “Sunday, March 20, 4:17pm, ‘I totally just texted this girl I’ve had a crush on forever and she hasn’t texted me back in like 17 whole minutes. I’m never going to school again.’” Or, “Friday, May 15, 3:24pm, ‘I’m pretty sure I completely failed my history test, I know I got at least 7 questions wrong, and I just can’t even imagine what my mom and dad are going to say.”
A diary, it seems, is destined to be written from the perspective of a single moment, most often, a moment when we find ourselves completely lost in the oblivion of the now. The perspective of a diary is devoid of both the past and the future, instead fixated on an angst filled moment when we are unable to escape the uncertainty and anxiety of today. Even now, as an “adult”, I find myself “writing down the bones” in an attempt to relieve the tension and pressure of the day, but even still these entires hold firm to a perspective that falls short of the sweeping grandeur of a story like Harry Potter.
A good book, it’s true, unfolds one chapter at a time, however, it is woven of the past, present, and future. Even if we, as the reader, are blind to it, the story is being driven artfully into an inextricable conclusion that redeems faults, explains mysteries, leaves us fully content and maybe wanting just a little more. The perspective of a good book is infinite but somehow grounded, encapsulating the enormity of the story told through rich details of people and places.
It is never more obvious then as we mourn the loss of the loved one, the simple truth – life isn’t a diary, life is a story. And not just any story, we are invited to join with the Author of all life in the writing of our own story. We are called to find context from our past, live hopefully in our present and lay a foundation which, in retrospect, will appear as foreshadowing our future. And we are called to have faith that in the end, our story won’t be a mere collection of diary entries, but a beautiful tapestry weaving together all our life’s moments, a story that in it’s final chapter leaves us overwhelmed with joy, and maybe just a hint of grief as we head to our cosmic epilogue.
And so, my prayer for you is this – that you remember you are living a story being authored by God, not just the chapters set in green pastures, or along still waters, but all the chapters of your life. And may you dwell in the house of the LORD your whole life long.
Bryan Bardin is the Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries at the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church.