When Life Stops
I didn’t hear the gun go off that Saturday morning.
But I heard about it from others.
It happened 20 minutes before I arrived to prepare for Outdoor Church. It came from the bridge, a few hundred yards away, they said.
My friend Brenda had to cross the bridge on her way to church. As we sat in the folding chairs underneath the tent together, she told me the body was still there. It was covered with a sheet. She couldn’t see if it was a man or a woman.
Just someone who had run out of hope.
Then Brenda caught me up on her own struggles. She has been knocked down many times in her life. Even now, life events are threatening to bury her.
She said five times in her life she wanted to be like the person on the bridge. She had wanted to give up, too. Yet God hadn’t let her die.
She sounded close to giving up again.
But not yet.
A Plot Change
Our stories don’t go like we expect them to. We envision the plot leading in one direction (usually to a healthy, happy, prosperous place), but life places us in different scenes. Sometimes good ones. Sometimes not so good.
Like the person on the bridge, sometimes stories seem to end too soon. We weren’t finished reading them. The ending is confusing.
Even when we’re not the main character of the story, someone else’s ending can still devastate us. It can make us anxious. It can cause us to be jumpy, wondering what’s next around the corner for us, too.
How do we adjust when a book we’re reading suddenly slams shut?
What to Do with a Short Story
How do we deal with a story when a character suddenly disappears?
- Put down the pen.
For starters, we can learn to release our expectations. Stop predicting a sure ending. Live more flexibly. Bend without breaking. When we hold our scripts loosely, we’re less likely to be caught off guard when edits are written in.
- Embrace the mystery.
Then we can keep reading to see what’s on the next page. We learn to be inquisitive about the unknown, instead of hiding from it. Some surprises are bad, for sure, but other surprises bring hidden gifts with them. Stay curious.
- Trust other authors.
When we let go of plotting every detail of our story, we’re more receptive to help from outside sources. Welcome Love when it arrives from other people. Allow it to impress its beautiful fingerprints on every page.
- Flip the book over.
For the unknown person on the bridge, the story still isn’t over. They still live on. We just can’t see yet the new pages being written. God picks up the story on the other side.
The Page You’re On
Making peace with the unknown is a lifelong journey. It’s not easy to trust in the hard parts of our stories. We need to be aware and feel the sadness when it comes.
But when we learn to live freely, instead of manipulating the words into what we think they should say, we can fully live the page we’re on. We can stay in the story of the present, not jump ahead.
I still haven’t heard who the mystery person was who died on the bridge that Saturday. I probably won’t. Not every life makes the news. Or has a funeral. Or gets an obituary.
But every life is a story that matters. To somebody here. To somebody already gone. And to God who writes each life into being.
At the end of Outdoor Church, I asked Brenda if she wanted to pray. She said she’d rather pray for the person who died than for herself.
So we thanked God for grace as this person was welcomed fresh into eternal love an hour earlier. We were glad this person now knew deep love. That they could finally enjoy the peace of complete healing.
Brenda prayed thanks that she had survived five times when she had wanted to die. And I prayed thanks that Brenda is still here.
We are each filling in the blank pages now of our 2023 chapters. Our previous chapters are already written, but they are not complete. The stories continue on. The ones we read. And the ones we no longer see.
Our stories never end. Not even death can stop them.
Don’t be afraid to turn the page. Keep reading. This story isn’t over.
* * *
Have you lost anyone unexpectedly lately? What helps you deal with your loss? Please share in the comments.
revised from the archives
- Just Say You’re Sorry
The story of Anna and Julie
- Do You Assume the Best or the Worst? And a Barking Lady
The story of the barking lady in the library
- Encounter Another Human Being
Joe takes care of neighbors
- This Is Not Fair
The homeless boys watch the weather
Grace & Truth Featured Post
I am moved by stories. Story was my One Word of the Year in 2017, but it is truly a word for every year in every life.
Laura is choosing Story as her One Word this year for 2023. I pray her words for myself too:
“I pray that God will give me courage and kindness in my written story, in my spoken story, and in my lived-out story this year and for years to come.”
Read at her blog why Laura is choosing Story, then link up your own blog posts below.
Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.
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