It occurred to me the other day, as I placed my bookmark between the pages of a novel, that reading, particularly reading fiction, is much like being a Christian. I had in my hands a complete adventure. A journey that begins and ends, and in between is full of life: ups and downs, drama, intrigue, excitement, and even the dull moments of reality that fiction manages to minimize.
With my marker in place, I closed the book. The climax would have to wait. But there in my hands, I had the outcome of the story. It was mine at that very moment, but at the same time, not yet, as I hadn’t reached that part of the book.
The Christian is in the same situation. We possess the climax of our story, of having faith in Jesus at this very moment. The gifts of faith, forgiveness, salvation, and life everlasting, are ours now, but we won’t experience them fully until we reach the end of our temporal life.
Think about it.
When you’re reading a good story, the sense of anticipation propels you from page to page. You long to reach the end, to find out what happens next. You can’t put the book down. You need to know the final outcome of the narrative you’ve been pulled into by the author’s well-crafted words. That same sense of anticipation propels Christians throughout our lives. We long to reach the end, to live the life promised in Scripture, a life with Jesus in heaven. In faith we don’t want to stop being Christian, just like we don’t want to put a good book down. We long to realize the final outcome of the narrative we’ve been pulled into by the Author of Life’s perfect Word. It’s a now-but-not-yet reality that the reader and the Christian share.
From the moment I brought my latest book home, before I ever needed a bookmark, I had all of it’s treasures in my possession. They belonged to me. I could enjoy them as the author intended, letting them build and build until I knew them all, or I could let the book collect dust, rejecting the gifts that are given only when the words on the page fill my head and heart. Likewise, all the gifts of Christianity are mine at this very moment, they have been since the day faith was worked in my heart. On that day I possessed all the treasures of heaven. They belonged to me. I have them now, but not yet. As believers we get to enjoy them as the Author intended, one day. But until that day, until we reach the end of this life, we get to let God’s gifts build and build, enjoying them as they come.
I have the ending of my book in my hands, just as I have the beginning, but my bookmark is at chapter eight. I have the fullness of heaven right now just as I did the first day I heard the Gospel, but I’m 35 and in good health. Now, but not yet. This is the experience of the reader and the life of the Christian.
He married his high school sweetheart, and even though he doesn't have super powers, with each passing day, he grows more and more convinced that she does. They have two amazing children who keep Tyrel grounded in the joys of childishness, but insist that he never wear his underwear on top of his pants.
Tyrel is a parish pastor and the author of The Gift and the Defender and Finding the Truth in Story: Grimm’s Fairy Tales.