The Middle of the Story
Warning: Spoilers ahead for classics you should have already read!
I didn’t want to write for the blog this week. I’m going through a very difficult situation at work that has me feeling like I’ve been turned inside out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t see through to the outcome. I’m having trouble imagining what awaits me on the other side of this mess. And I hate it. It’s scary and uncomfortable and pretty much the last place I want to be.
It’s an in-between time, and I read about them all the time as they happen to characters in books, but it’s so much more bearable then: I’m holding the whole book in my hands and I know that with a few more pages, a few more chapters, the protagonist will have a break through, a resolution will be reached, the Horcruxes will be found, Mr. Darcy shall return, the Ring will be destroyed.
I love the glory of those triumphs, but it’s painful to reflect on what led up to them. Frodo and Sam walked to Mordor with no guarantee they would ever reach Mt. Doom. Elizabeth Bennett waited at Longbourne and wondered if she would ever see Mr. Darcy again. Harry Potter wandered through the lonely forests of Britain feeling lost and confused and abandoned, as Voldemorte gathered more and more power. Can I be with them in those spaces of uncertainty and despair? Can I forget that I know the ending and feel the helplessness and frustration of the in-between times, the faithless times, the hopeless wait?
Even though these stages are brutal, we seem to know intrinsically that they are good. They are necessary. Love is being born. Character is being formed. Courage is being built. The seeds for what is to come are being watered. It’s just so hard to submit to the forge—it’s hard to submit to the circumstances that will shape you. It’s hard to stop fighting and cringing and complaining as you’re softened in fire and then reshaped blow by blow. But it’s good. And a friend said to me recently, “There are parts of you that are growing through this.” And I knew she was right.
When Ron walks out on Harry and Hermione in the middle of The Deathly Hallows, I want to reach through the pages and reassure them that it’s only the middle of the story, not the end. I want to tell them that Ron will be back, that they will find the Horcruxes, that Voldemorte won’t win. Obviously, I’m speaking not as a first-time reader, but as one who knows the story. The problem with life is that it’s the first time for all of us—we don’t know the story, we don’t know when help comes, we don’t know when the trial will be over. But we know the One who does. He knows the story even as He walks it with you. He holds your book in His hands, and asks you to trust Him through the parts that make no sense. I know it’s a bit of a cheesy analogy, but as a life-long reader, as a hopeless lover of stories and books, it’s one that I find comforting. It’s a perspective that gives me hope that there is a purpose to this in-between time, that it’s only the middle of the story, that there is more to come.