Some things happen in life that freeze you in your tracks.
For the past month, I was rewriting the first two chapters of a book. It was all going well. I completed chapter one and felt really good about it. I said what I wanted to say, and said it as I wanted to say it.
Writing is, after all, the composition of words and ideas. You have stuff to say (ideas), and it matters how you say it (words). Both of these matter deeply to me. I couldn’t chuck them in the air and hope they landed correctly. No, they took massaging and smoothing and sometimes cracking. And finally chapter one was complete, its words and ideas neatly in order in my kind of way.
It was time for chapter two.
But then Grandpa Jack died, and I was asked to deliver the eulogy. I had never delivered a eulogy before. Much less for my beloved grandfather.
So I put chapter two on hold. That’s what you do when people die. You put things on hold.
I worked all week on the eulogy, taking turns between crying and laughing as I whittled out my message, its words and ideas. How do you sum up a life of 85 years? How do you honor a man as spectacular as Jack? The only way, as I was concerned, was for God to show me how. I prayed my way through that eulogy, and finally it was finished.
I delivered it. We gave thanks. We said goodbye. And then it was over. We resumed normal life.
I sat down to chapter two. A blank page. I didn’t know how to begin. Then I remembered how well chapter one had ended. I need to return to that place, I thought, the place where I was emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually when I finished chapter one. When Jack was still with us. Before we said goodbye. I asked God to help me return so I could begin chapter two.
But nothing happened. A blank page. No inspiration. The ticking of the clock. I gave up for the night.
I told Colette about it. I said I had no idea how to start chapter two. Chapter one went so well and now I was stuck.
She said, “Just begin at the end of chapter one. Don’t start chapter two. Just keep telling your story.”
The next morning before light, I sat down to write. I prayed again for the grace to return.
Then the LORD said something most memorable, “Chris, the point is not to return. The point is to move forward from this place. Who are you now and what is your message as a result of what happened? The point is never to return, it’s to pick up and keep moving.”
It struck me in my gut and reminded me of Colette’s words: Just keep telling your story.
So I closed chapter two and I opened chapter one. I scrolled to the end of the page. Then I sat. And you know what happened? I found my words and ideas, or maybe they found me, and I began laying them out. They formed a pleasant composition and I felt good about it.
Perhaps life isn’t about chapter divisions. Perhaps it’s all one story. We live, we gain, we lose. We can’t separate one from another. They affect us and we are changed. The question is: how are we changed?
So we move on, telling our story as we go, a story that doesn’t cease.