People are drawn to a story, or drawn into a story, when they find themselves in the story. And there’s a sense in which the human lifecycle can recapitulate the story of Scripture. This doesn’t mean that every human life consistently parallels the Biblical narrative. And I don’t mean it literally recapitulates the story of Scripture. But the human experience is often emblematic of the Biblical narrative.
For those of us who’ve been blessed with a happy childhood, there’s something Edenic about childhood. I don’t mean that children are sinless. They, too, are sinners. And they, too, inhabit a fallen world.
Yet I also think there’s a trace of long-lost Eden in childhood. The world is new to us. Full of wonder. The ordinary is extraordinary. Parents, who seem godlike at that age, provide for every need. Try to create a sanctuary for their kids. A safe haven to play. To explore the world.
There is a degree of innocence in childhood. Children are fairly oblivious to the evil around them. Once again, I’m talking about those of us who’ve been blessed with good parents. And a nice home.
To some extent this may continue into adolescence. Adolescence is like a second childhood–a new beginning. Another age of discovery. First love. Young love. A future full of promise–or so it seems.
We’re not necessarily so jaded as we may become. So common grace in a fallen world can preserve a residue of Eden. A garden in ruins. God gives us just enough good to remind us of just how much we lost.
By contrast, the middle years may be our wilderness. Our child-like springtime and youthful summertime begin to turn. The sun lies lower on the horizon. The sap withdraws. Leaves begin to drop. At first a few, then a shower. We bundle up for winter. Grit our teeth for life in exile.
A trying time. Our sanguine quest for self-discovery may end in tragedy. Calamity. Regret and disillusionment. The garden lies behind us. Miles behind us. Hundreds and thousands miles away. And there’s no going back.
We may get to the point where we’ve taken our very last step. Or so it seems. We can go no further. Here we shall lie. Here we shall die. Far from home. And far from our precious destination. Hope wanes as shadows wax.
But then, in the life of God’s elect, water gushes from the rock, and manna rains down from heaven like snowflakes in the desert.
In conversion we enter the promised land. Heaven this is not. More a foretaste of heaven.
The prospect of a heavenly hereafter illuminates our future here-below. And our illuminated future illuminates our past. In conversion, we see life through the prism of the afterlife. And we see our past through the prism of our future.
Conversion doesn’t merely brighten the trail ahead, but brightens the trail behind. In his light we begin to discern God’s providential hand even when we were enemies of the Gospel. We thought we were walking alone, yet he was leading the way all along–as our invisible guide and guardian.
So the whole of life takes on new meaning. Not merely what comes after, but everything before.
And in due time, our Beulah land below, which is just a faint and fallen token of a better land, will give way to the thing it prefigured.
In that sense, our lives relive another story. At different stages of the journey. Sometimes the stories intersect, as we enact more than one story at a time.
The Bible is full of types and shadows. From time to time the story that God has written for our life and mine may typify the story of the faithful or the fallen in his archetypal story of the ages. And so, as we read the Bible, and round a corner, we bump into someone who reminds us of ourselves.
We live Scripture by living in Scripture. By living it out from the inside out.