For the upcoming release of “A Story Unfinished”, we are gathering writers, friends and good folk around two themes. Feel free to join us, spread the word or just bask in some great truths.
“Honey,” I tell my husband. “I’ve got something I want you to see.” I slide my forefinger across the screen of my iPhone.
I cradle the phone in my hands, and the two of us, heads bowed low, stand with our backs against the kitchen counter on a Saturday afternoon. Our girls eat sliced apples, at the breakfast bar across the room from us. The golden afternoon pours itself into our home, straight through the picture window, illuminating our happy little life in Iowa.
I raise the tiny iPhone screen so my husband can watch the video playing in my hands. A lump is already rising up in my throat, because I’ve seen this heart-wrenching video a dozen or more times over the last few years.
It’s the one about a little guy named Eliot —
“Dear Eliot,” the daddy’s voice begins. “Right now you are two months from being born. We just found out you have Trisomy 18. … Doctors tell us you won’t likely make it to birth.”
For the next six minutes, my farmer-husband holds my iPhone, watching the glory-story of a baby named Eliot. This is a baby who wasn’t supposed to live a single day on earth. But one tiny life—the life of a boy named Eliot–can make you know that it’s still safe to pray for miracles in the 21st century.
That sweet boy lived for 99 days.
My husband holds that iPhone in his work-worn farmer hands, and tears roll down his stubbled cheeks.
Across the room, my girls, oblivious to our tears, finish up their apple slices. They start arguing about who gets to play Minecraft first when they’re done eating.
“Girlsss???” I raise my eyebrows (and my voice), and I stretch my verbal warning out long … and maybe a bit too loud. The fighting ceases. For now.
I wipe down a countertop, put dishes in the sink. And I just stand here in the kitchen, shaking my head while my husband holds Eliot’s story in his hands.
How do I just go about life on a Saturday, breaking up sibling squabbles, and sweeping wood-planked floors, and standing in warm shafts of May spring light? While outside my window, life goes down. And it goes down hard.
Out that window, there’s a world groaning with pain, like it might swallow us whole. How is this fair?
In Oklahoma, mothers grieve for their children. Here in Iowa, two girls were abducted more than a week ago. A friend in my hometown just got the worst diagnosis imaginable.
Clouds roll on. Storms hit. Accidents happen. Babies with Trisomy 18 die.
How does the sun shine like pure gold over your girls’ apple slices one day, and then shadows cast a pall over your whole world the next day?
Because we’ve had the scary-dark here, too. It’s not always bright and sunny on our farm. We’ve sat next to the hospital beds in ICU, have grieved too-early deaths, have suffered pain and rejection and unspeakable hurt.
And we never saw most of it coming.
“Dear Eliot,” comes the father’s voice on the iPhone, “Today you turned eleven days old. We are so proud of you. Today we celebrated your eleventh birthday. In fact, we do that every day at 4:59, the time you were born.”
That’s the thing about unfinished stories. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you turn the page of your life’s storybook. You don’t ever know how the plot might twist a bit, how it might twist ‘til it hurts.
Or how the story might twist to reveal a glorious, knee-buckling miracle.
We’re all living stories that are unfinished and uncertain and unknown. And frankly, it can all be a bit unnerving.
But we have a choice:
We can live terrified – in fear of what’s around the corner – or we can live glorified, knowing Who’s around the corner.
Sure, our stories are unfinished. But this—
*There really is a Finisher of our faith and of our stories; He said “it is finished” in the biggest plot twist in history; and there really is a grand finish line. That finish is actually just the beginning. And that is our hope.
I’m thinking about all of that, while I sweep crumbs into the dustpan on a Saturday afternoon in Iowa. The father’s voice on the video continues.
“Dear Eliot, Today you went to be with Jesus. … A six-pound boy with Trisomy 18. God found great pleasure to take a lowly thing in the eyes of the world to show truth.”
The world is a hard place to live, and it’s an astonishingly lovely place to live. Life is a page-turner, isn’t it?
It’s a series of “nows” that stretch out into forever, page after page. It is a series of unfinished and unrepeatable moments that only make sense in the hands of a holy Finisher.
The Eliot video ends. My farmer-husband wipes another tear from his cheek. And I dump the dustpan into the garbage. We look at each other across the room, wordless.
And we turn another page.