Have you ever, halfway through a really good book, had a strong and sudden urge to read the ending? Even though you’ve been warned not to since age seven; even though you know in your bones it’ll ruin the surprise of it all—still, you almost feel you have to know what will happen.
I remember the first time I read Anne of Green Gables—it belonged to my sister, and it was in a set of three books. At the time, I didn’t know that there are actually seven or eight books, all told, in the series, so I thought I was reading the whole thing (books 1, 2, and 5 were included in this particular “anthology”). Maybe you can imagine my confusion when Anne’s story progressed smoothly—ridiculously smoothly!—from adoption, to hating Gilbert, to sorta-liking Gilbert and fitting in at school, to being married to Gilbert Blythe! I’d seen the movies; I knew there was more to the story than that.
Even worse, though, I’d gotten so used to the lovely descriptions of Anne’s perfect life, that I was not prepared for certain events that came in book 5. I won’t go spoil it for you, but I’ll say this: the movies didn’t do Anne of Green Gables justice. Something happens to Anne and Gilbert that is painful, and real—and I was not ready for it. I felt betrayed by the author, as if L.M. Montgomery had made the earlier books wonderful on purpose, just to make more of an emotional impact with the turn she took with Anne’s later life.
It was so lovely, you see—in fact, I really think it’s hard to match Anne’s descriptions of a lovely, right world. She sees everything so poetically, as if everything has some element of delight for her, even if it’s sad or tragic. Except that up until this tragedy, nothing terribly sad has happened to her. As a reader, I had not experienced anything but a shared delight with Anne’s outlook. I’d missed all the misunderstandings with Gilbert, and all the reconciliation with Marilla and Mrs. Lynde, and I’d missed the part where Anne goes out on her own and learns how not to be lonely in a new, unfriendly place. I’d missed Anne’s preparation for her trial. Perhaps if I hadn’t, then I’d have had a better understanding that not everything in Anne’s world is beautiful and lovely. But I’d unintentionally read the ending prematurely. And I wasn’t ready for it.
As usual, I’m only halfway talking about Anne of Green Gables, and books, and L.M. Montgomery. I think people’s lives are stories; and I embrace the idea that all of life is part of a larger Story, with many parts and a great many characters, and one Author. That book hasn’t ended yet (if it has an ending at all), and neither have our individual stories. Still, I sometimes want nothing more than to see how the ending plays out. I want to look ahead and see how this or another event turns out. What happens to this character? Is he here when the final chapter ends? Is she? Are we still in each other’s stories a couple chapters from now? How will the decision I made today play out when I’m twenty-five? Or thirty-seven? Or will it matter at all?
I want to know. That’s what I want—to be sure. Of something, or anything—
It’s just that, lately, I’m not so sure I’m ready to know what comes later. I’m a little more content to know what I know, and not worry about the next chapter. I’ve realized what a lovely time I’ve had of it so far, and it makes me a little nervous to realize that anything—adventure, romance, tragedy—might happen tomorrow. On the very next page.
See, there’s where I get scared. I go from wanting to be at tomorrow already, to never wanting tomorrow to arrive. I wish I knew the secret to thriving in today. Not worrying about tomorrow, not fearing it, not dreading that which I don’t know, but waiting in a patient expectation that whatever comes will be for good. I hope that, when I get there, I don’t feel betrayed by the Author for not warning me ahead of time. I wish I were better at trusting that, like in the Anne stories, when hard times comes, I’ll have had a whole set of experiences—a whole life—to prepare me for them.
As far as the wanting to be sure of things goes, over the break I’m hoping to read a book called The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment by a man named Daniel Taylor. I hadn’t heard of it before, and I don’t know quite what it’s about, but it seems like it’s something I ought to read. A professor here is heading up a discussion of the book, and I hope to post some of my gleanings from the books and from other people here, on the blog.
Maybe it’ll be worth our while:)