This blog is called “Waiting for the End of the Sentence.” Choosing that name was partly just a funny little play on words about how I’ve been waiting for my missing period (get it?) to return for the past five years. But the name was also birthed out of a feeling that I’m waiting for the end of my story – the end of the story God is writing.
What I’ve come to realize in the last five years of posting on this site is that the end isn’t coming. At least, not on this earth. Instead, God is teaching me so much in the process of him writing my story – a story that fits within the bigger picture of his grand story of love and redemption. He’s using the wonderful, joyful moments and the hurtful, confusing ones to create something much larger and powerful than I often comprehend in the moment.
Finding Grace in the Gray
A more appropriate title for this blog might be “Finding Grace in the Gray.” Because life is not black and white. It’s not a series of starts and finishes. Clear beginnings and clear endings. It’s an often messy work-in-progress. A charcoal drawing that blends varying shades of black with splashes of white to create something more nuanced and beautiful than we can recognize when we’re staring at it too closely.
When we have our noses to the pages of our lives, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the black spots, to just see patches of blah-boring gray. That’s when we have to take a step back in order to see that God is masterfully working on something new. “See I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). He uses both shadow and light to make something beautiful.
There Must Be More
Tonight I was feeling a serious case of the Sunday blues. Even after a beautiful Easter service at the San Francisco Opera House and lunch with my family – so much love and so much care – at the end of the day, when it was just me in my apartment, I still felt somewhat empty. So, I decided I wanted to tune out or run away from how I was feeling – cover up the gray patches and just ignore the loneliness. Instead, I opted for a middle ground and tuned into the movie Boyhood.
If you’ve seen the film, you probably remember the scene where the main character Mason is leaving for college. His mom begins to cry and says, “I thought there would be more.” She begins to reflect on how her life has been a series of milestones – school and marriages and divorces and kids leaving for college. And how she thought there would be more than just the sum of all these parts.
I think we can all identify with this feeling. We think, “There has to be more than this life of alternating busyness and emptiness, right?” We live from milestone to milestone, changing relationships or jobs or cities, in constant pursuit of something more. We wait for the end of the sentence. For the exclamation point!
Instead, we feel so many ellipses and pauses and questions marks. Or just total white space where we have no clue what’s going on. But here’s what happens in the white space. If we don’t run from it, we’ll start to gain perspective. We’ll step back and see the grace in the gray.
Jesus Weeps with Us
So, rather than just ignoring the emptiness that hung like a cloud in my apartment tonight, I went out. Not necessarily to run away from how I was feeling, but simply to give my thoughts and emotions more air to breath and for God to speak to me. So, grabbing two jackets, a scarf and gloves – this is San Francisco, after all – I set out for the hills behind UCSF.
As I gained higher ground, I also started to gain perspective. I walked past the hospital and began to reflect on this morning’s sermon about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). This passage contains one of the most famous – and famously short – verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” When Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus died, he wept with Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary. He was saddened – and maybe even angered – by the death of his friend because he knew that this was not the way things were so supposed to be.
So, as I walked, I remembered that God identifies completely with our feelings. He’s felt them himself, so he’s not offended or angered by our emotions. Instead he weeps with us. I realized that God wasn’t judging me for my loneliness. It wasn’t as though he was saying, “Why are you so ungrateful, Laura? Don’t you see all that I’ve done for you? I died for you! And yet you’re still not satisfied?”
No, his tone was so much different. He said, “I see that you’re feeling lonely. But I’m here. So, let’s go for a walk. I have things to show you.”
And show me he did.
Discovering Hidden Staircases
As I walked, I asked God, “Isn’t there more?” The farther we walked, the more he helped sort out my muddled thoughts. He used the white space of our walk to bring me peace. He showed me that there was life around me – life outside the sometimes-confining space of my apartment. There was a hospital full of people that needed prayer and love; neighborhoods of beautiful houses, honeysuckle, and huge eucalyptus trees; and even hidden staircases that I could climb to get a better view of the city lights below me.
It was as though God was saying, “You’re right, Laura; there is more. But I am the key. Don’t look for ‘more’ outside of me.”
Going back to Mary and Martha. These sisters were much like we are; they didn’t see the bigger picture of what Jesus was doing. They understood the black and white: the reality that if Jesus had gotten to the town of Bethany a couple days earlier, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. They even understood the black and white of their doctrine that said that Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). But they didn’t recognize that Jesus had a bigger plan that went beyond their brother’s physical life and death.
So, he helped them step back and survey the picture he’d been pointing to throughout his ministry: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26; emphasis mine).
For any of you who may be asking yourselves the same question as me, as Mary, as Martha – Isn’t there more? – I want to tell you: Yes, there is more. But don’t run away from those question-mark feelings of loneliness or sadness or anxiety. Just sit with them, or walk with them. Whatever your preference.
In either case, bring your questions to God and let him into the white space. Because he will use that emptiness to create something new. And he will bring “more.” He will bring more joy, more peace, more healing. He’ll show you hidden staircases and beautiful sunsets and people who need you. And more than anything else, he’ll show you himself.
Because he is where true life is found. As our pastor shared this morning, there is no life outside of Christ. We look for life – for “more” – in lots of places, but we always come up short. We shouldn’t be too surprised when the feelings of loneliness or anxiety return. Because while God’s kingdom has come on earth, it hasn’t been fully realized just yet.
There’s more coming. But that “more” is only found in death. It’s a fitting sentiment for Easter Sunday. Just as Christ’s death has raised us to new life with him, so, one day our death will usher us into complete restoration and total realization of that “more” we’ve been longing for. In the meantime, God is present with us in the gray, showing us grace, and making himself and his full-color life known.