We are in the midst of deep, beautiful, and majestic story which is unfolding before our very eyes. It has now, as it had yesterday, and will have forever, one central Character: God’s Elect, His Servant in whom He delights (Isa 42:ff). We find Him at the very beginning, in His Father and He together shaping the stage on which this story was to unfold; we find reference to Him as the Promise of Light that was to come, even as the second darkest moment in History came about (Gen 3:15); we find Him at the center as the anticipated brightening of this story burst forth like a noon-day through the clouds (John 1:1); we find Him at the darkest moment in any story ever told, the moment when all hope and joy died like a seed that fell upon the ground; we see Him as the darkness of the night yields to the brightness of the dawning, when He burst back on to the scene, shocking the onlookers. And He is the consummation of this Story’s happy ending, which has been planned and assured, but has not come about.
And we’re in the middle. And like any story, the section in which we take part is dotted with the bitter and the sweet. This is a grand and beautiful section of that story, which has now drawn to a close:
Up to a certain point, our family was divided into three-four- distinct sections: Parents (Dad and Mom, believe it or not), the three older kids (those upon were bequeathed more privileges, responsibility, and authority: Emily, Ellen, Trey), the Three little Pigs (Hannah, Ben and Sarah: upgraded to four, five, &c with the addition of Annie, Mercy, Josiah) and then somewhere hanging between the middle of these last two groups was yours truly. I was the mixture of younger, irresponsible and unauthoritative child and older, privileged child.
There was a transition around the time that several of us older four were genuinely converted (around fourteen, for me). There became a distinction in the older four: we became our own core group, in the midst of a God-blessed and large family. We’d stay up late with mom and dad, we’d watch movies together that the others couldn’t watch, we’d talk about things they couldn’t know about: we loved, we fought, we’d bear one another’s burdens, became the disciplining guideposts for the younger set of kids. In the Riley kids of Gen X, we were the group representative of the Kingdom of Light into which we had been brought. We had our differences, but our commonalities outweighed these like pure gold outweighs grass.
That was the beautiful section of the story that we grew in. God placed us there for that reason: growth. But not to stay there.
On my sister Hannah’s fourteenth birthday, in June of 2009, our little world changed forever. We were full swing in a Pro-Life petition drive, and had sponsored a conference in Tupelo. It was on that day that we met -a lot of people- but two in particular: both blond-haired, blue-eyed individuals, a young man named Tyler and a young lady named Candace. And everything began to change.
That was a moment in the story which at the time seemed hard: not death, not pain, but change. As the next six months unfolded, it became clear that Tyler wanted Emily, and that Trey wanted Candace. My oldest siblings: Trey had just returned from Ethiopia, and had no plans to get married. Emily… well yeah, Emma needed that.
And thus, a little more than a year later, the Fellowship was broken. We had new family members, our live’s had collectively expanded, but that central core of four confused, bumbling sinners saved by Grace would never be the same. Trey and Emily were both married to there respective other halves: these people who had mysteriously become more important to them than any other human being in the world.
The transition was anything but smooth. We had to adjust to Ellen and I being the two remaining under Mom and Dad, and Hannah Ben and Sarah had to receive more of the load a responsibility in in our family which then consisted of ten.
But the story wasn’t going to settle there long: Caleb Frederick, and young man we had known for several years finally from the closet with the truth: he wanted Ellen. even more disturbing, Ellen was keen on him, now that it was mentioned. Thus began yet another stage of transition, as we prepared to terminate finally the core group that had once existed, and my third oldest sibling and this man were about to continue there sections of the Story together.
Where is the story now?
In short, we have reached the end of book one. Growing up continues, but for Emily, who now hold the daughter of her traveling partner Tyler, for Trey, far from sitting up late talking with me over a goofy old Jane Austen movie, is now setting up his house with his helper Candace, in preparation for the arrival of their first son, and for Ellen, who now enjoys her Honeymoon with Caleb, they have separated from the tree from which they fell, and within the same orchard are planting new ones. They have intertwined but distinct story roles now: but the Main Character hasn’t changed: nor will He have changed when the far distant multi-great grandchildren know little more about us than our names and faded gravestones. After all, it is His story. And He will not give us over to our foolish belief that we are to stay fixed in one chapter: Especially when the best part is always ahead, never behind.
Because all this is just the cover and the title page then “at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no on one earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (CS Lewis, The Last Battle).
And for me? well, pages are turning here as well. More on that later.