This passing shadow

“Do you dislike your role in the story, your place in the shadow? What complaints do you have that the hobbits could not have heaved at Tolkien? You have been born into a narrative, you have been given freedom. Act, and act well until you reach your final scene.” –N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Eternity is beyond fathoming. We, frail creatures that we are, live in the now. In Time. In the ebb and flow of life where there is pain that seems insurmountable and endless.

I and my friends have been speaking about the classical difference between tragedy and comedy. Allow me to explain:

Classically, the main difference between a tragedy and comedy was where they started and where they ended up. A tragedy would begin with order, with contentment. It was good. But inevitably, the good would deteriorate–the king would die; the lover would betray; evil won. And the tragedy ended in chaos and confusion and pain and sorrow. A tragedy was like a sunset: beautiful, but ending in darkness.

A comedy, on the other hand, started in chaos–lovers parted; dying fathers; pain and confusion. And frequently, they just kept getting worse. Not only were the lovers parted, they would betray one another. The good king would be banished. A sentence of death would be pronounced on the plucky young hero. Darkness would win.

Or so it seemed.

But then, beyond all hope, would come forgiveness from the beloved; repentance from the usurper; pardon from the king. Against all expectations, light would burst across the horizon and the characters could see that it was a passing thing, that the truth was not in the pain, but in the love born out of it.

Often, life seems like a tragedy. Our hearts are broken; friends betray us; we fail to be the men and women we were created to be. Darkness wins. Light fails. Hope dies. We look up at the stars and hope for a resolution to our story, even as they fade from view. And we despair.

But in that dark, in that despair, we must not believe that this is the end. That darkness is all there is. Because it is the moment when the stars are gone–when hope is dead–when there is no way out–that the light will shine forth. Because this shadow? It’s just the dark before sunrise. This despair? It will not last. In the end, the Christian’s story is a comedy, not a tragedy.

And we must not forget that, even if our lives are forfeit, there is beauty and glory and joy eternal beyond this passing shadow.

“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.” –Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers

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