I first learned the concept of “future story” from Andrew Lester. Just like we have a past story, we are always writing a future story about what tomorrow will bring. Whether short term (what we’re having for dinner) or long term (the hopes we have for our children), we are always writing future stories.
Future stories are a big part of the work of pediatric chaplains, often because those stories have been dramatically interrupted. A life-altering diagnosis. A devastating injury. A required intervention with unknown outcomes. Every day, future stories are being challenged and, sometimes, lost.
The loss of a future story is a uniquely powerful pain. Often, it’s a loss many parents just can’t hear. “She’s walking out of here,” they’ll angrily say as the doctor speaks of her spinal cord injury. “He’s going to survive,” they’ll defiantly shout in the face of a grim prognosis. Their pain is so profound, they cannot make room for anything but the future they had always imagined; anything less is unacceptable.
They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD (v. 11). God is writing a future story for Israel, but it isn’t an unrealistic one. They will come home again, God says, but they will be different. They will tremble for the things they have been through and for the unknown things to come, but they will come home.
Rewriting a future story is terribly painful, but it can also be incredibly hopeful. With tears in our eyes, we tentatively take up the pen again and whisper our affirmation: no matter what the future holds, God will be there.
What does the future hold for you? Is it what you originally planned? How will you trust that God will be there no matter what?
Alpha and Omega, may we never forget that you were with us for the beginning and you’ll be with us for the end, no matter what that end looks like. Amen.