“People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything…” – Flannery O’Connor

Having read this quote for the first time about 12 years ago, I am surprised it is just now getting under my skin. But the very fact it has is perhaps proof of it’s truthfulness. Though I read novels, I am prone to not take long looks at most things. Like most Christians, I am quick to judge. Well, I am just quick period. I am quick to decide on the goodness or badness of something. I make rash judgments on people and books and everything. I want everything done quick. Food. Stories. Conversations. Trips. Blog posts. Downloads. Uploads. Health. Answered prayer.

So, I’m part of that elite evangelical group known as “Everyone.” We don’t take long looks at anything because it requires a reigning in of ego. The long look asks us to submit ourselves to the fact we have limited knowledge. We can guess and speculate but really we are just ignoramuses.

The BP oil spill is a good example. We were right to be concerned. But we were wrong to talk and act as if we knew the ending. We spoke about the spill as if we knew for certain what all the effects would be. And we knew, of course, they would be catastrophic. And so we handed out judgment diffused with anger like those without hope. In other words we freaked out and acted as if the Gulf Coast would be irreparably harmed. And we did all of this at the beginning of the story. But now? The oil cannot even be found. The beaches are pristine. And little microbes are “eating” up the oil that is below the surface. We should not have been so quick to think we knew the end of the story before we finished the first chapter.

Novels, of course are stories. And they should teach us something here. All the stories we love seem to have a crisis moment where we are forced to either have hope or dispense with it. And then as the story moves along, the characters change and the drama takes on a redemptive form. Hope emerges from the ashes of crisis. Our heart soars. Thankfully, we have looked long into the reaches of the final pages.

Our stories are similar. Not only have we as believers emerged from the slavery of sin and death and crossed the river on dry land into life and love with God, our Redeemer. But we continue on into a story that never ends. We move “further up and further in” as Lewis showed us in one of his novels. The story has not yet ended. We not only want others to take the long look into our lives, we naturally fall in this direction when thinking about ourselves. The cliché rings true. God isn’t finished yet. The story is not over. That is, unless you are without hope and cannot look long into the stories about and around you.

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