Dad was obsessed with them. He peppered beautiful statues of them in his office and around our home for as long as I can remember.
A few of them live at my place since he passed away. One is a set of bronze bookends.
In an age where our libraries are digital bytes we read on tablets and smart phones, bookends are a thing of the past. Vintage kitsch.
I’m sure there are a lot of younger folk who can’t imagine what they are or what possible purpose they serve.
So to educate the uninitiated, bookends are heavy objects set at each end of a bunch of books to hold them in place. Brackets, as it were, to keep the books from falling all over themselves.
Since my extensive library lives on an iPad, Dad’s eagle bookends now sit in my office back to back. No books in between. Simply reminders of Dad and his love for books.
Reminders too that I am living my present moments between bookends.
My wife and I have been gifted the privilege of having two brand new grand babies and her very old mother in our house at the same time.
Little people whose age is measured in months side-by-side one gauged by a century. New arrival abuts near departure.
Beginning and end. Start and finish. New life and impending death in the closest proximity.
Prologue and epilogue viewed together with all the chapters in between removed.
Bookends…with no books between.
This vivid contrast of new and old, youth and age, life and death is haunting my thoughts and invading my living. Honestly, in view of the larger scale of history and the tiny scope of my story, the bookends seem closer together than I dared believe.
The Sage of Ecclesiastes waxes poetic about it. “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
James states it more starkly. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
When Granny and Silas or Isabella are in the same room, the brevity and fragility of life is impossible to ignore. I see both ends simultaneously and in those moments God whispers to my heart…
“What are you putting between those bookends?”
Challenged by the demands of the daily, I find it hard to concentrate on the quality of the life I am creating. Busy-ness leads to weariness; production creates pre-occupation; hurry incites worry. And days go by in which I can’t see much of value I am sliding between the bookends.
As we talked about this, Dianne vocalized what we in the middle of life so often think: “I wish I knew when I was young what I know now.” She reflected on how different our values–what we consider important and essential–would be if we saw life from its end.
This is not as it should be.
We were not planted in the soil of this world to simply produce the leafy vegetation of accumulation and accomplishment. Jesus made it clear when he cursed the unfruitful fig tree that our days were intended by the Father of history to matter and make a difference. (Matthew 21:19)
We were made to release in this life what God bred into our conception.
“Much fruit” He called it. (John 15:5-8)
For a while now, I have been like a dog on a bone over these words of Paul to the Ephesians. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
I am more convinced than ever that we are not a product of time plus chance. Neither are we advanced pond scum.
There was an idea called “you” that occurred beyond creation before “you” ever became part of that creation. He prepared important stuff for us to do in His-story before He stuck His finger in sand and began to write our story.
God dreamt us up in His heart before He cooked us up in our mother’s womb.
And He desired something significant between the bookends.
We have no idea how much space there will be between them. But we don’t want to just cram meaningless placeholders or silly novellas there to fill up the space.
The recent losses in my life have acted as an obnoxious alarm awakening my heart to the truth that the bookends are far closer together than I allow myself to imagine.
If there is any story I want contained in the void between start and finish, it is a biography of God–the saga of His reckless love in the story of my feckless life.
That autobiography of God is written in the accumulated biographies of those who bear His name. Together we are the volume that fills the void.
Put that between the bookends.