I’m pursing getting a book published. It’s the first installment of a trilogy. While I’ve been seeking representation by an agent for book one, I’ve been writing book two. I finished the first draft last night.
Book two is dark. Very dark. Full of sadness and pain and fear. Yet even as the book is full or sorrow, there’s a very powerful thread of hope. In fact, I think I’d go as far to say the theme of the entire story is hope.
I started writing the manuscript in March of this year. Now, the plan for this book was already in place years ago. I had most of the story plotted out before I started writing. But even with the planned plot, I’m not sure I planned on the story containing quite so much sadness.
In March of this year, I was in the middle of a very sad—very hopeless—season of life. It made sense that my own pain would go into my writing. Yet I made a conscious effort of maintaining some distance between my own sorrow and the sorrows of my characters. The reader needs to experience the pain of the characters, not my own personal pain.
With this intentional distance, I was also able to see this subtle thread of hope. It was like a friendly mist floating nearby—just along for the ride, you might say. As the creator of the story, I couldn’t avoid this thread of hope, because I know how the story ends.
As dark and stormy as the story is, the foundation of confidence is always there, because the creator knows how the story ends, even if the reader and the characters don’t.
Last night, when I typed the final sentence, I had a God-like sensation and whispered, “It is good” as I saved my creation to a thumb drive.
And I wonder, does God feel that way about my story? As I lived a season full of hours spent on the floor of my room, sobbing and punching a pillow and feeling the kind of despair that causes you to wonder if life is really worth living, was God whispering, Just wait? Was he dancing giddily because he knew where my story was leading?
I wonder this in my present season, where I’m experiencing some happy endings to some of the sad stories. I chuckle a little when I think of the despair I felt recently. I wonder if God was saying, “Just wait ‘till you see what’s on the other side of this.”
But what about when we don’t get a happy ending? What if the despair doesn’t just last for a year or two? What if the despair is dragging on for dozens and dozens of years? What if we’ve reached a place where hoping hurts worse than giving up, so we stopped praying ages ago.
There were people in the land of Israel who’d given up hope a Messiah would come. After 400 years of silence, why keep praying?
Then the Messiah finally came, and those who recognized who he was were baffled when he didn’t perform according to their expectations.
Then he died.
What the heck, God?
Where is hope in the “what the heck, God?” moments? It’s a question we will ask ourselves until the final battle when ultimate hope is restored and all sad things disappear.
In our personal stories, we’re left hanging a little, because none of us have reached the end yet. Even in the happiest of fairytales with the happiest of endings, there’s still a little bit of unsettled incompleteness. Even if the story has ended on the pages, the characters still live on, and we wonder what became of them after the prince was restored to his throne.
Ceasing to pray that circumstances will change, doesn’t mean we’ve given up hope in the Great Storyteller. If we reach a place where we just can’t stand to shed any more tears over something, it doesn’t mean we no longer believe in God’s goodness and power.
He knows who he has created. He knows we are weak and frail.
Which is why I think he gives us hope in smaller ways. Which is why, maybe we can’t see hope in one place, but we can see hope in another. The little hope is a whisper of our Creator, telling us to just wait.
God sent angels to sing to some shepherds and tell them his Son had been born. It was like he couldn’t wait to tell them what happens next.
Back in the dark days a few months ago, I asked God for just a little bit of hope every day. Occasionally it was something small, like a really good cup of coffee. When I looked for that little bit of hope, suddenly I started seeing it everywhere.
But even without the little hope: all the hope we will ever need, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and born in a barn over 2,000 years ago.
And someday, he's coming back for us.
Photo by Jon Tyson