I finally got around to watching the Downton Abbey film this week. It was like stepping back in time, but not in the way you might think.
While the lauded series chronicled the life of the fictional Crawley family in and around World War I, watching the 2019 movie brought me back not to early 1900’s England, but to a dark period earlier this decade when my life’s threads were progressively unraveling.
During THAT TIME, forsaken and alone, I sat riveted to PBS every Sunday night as people who never existed became so real to me that I could not help but care as they married, gave birth, bickered, died.
I loved the Crawleys and their sassy servants; they distracted my own heart from its welted pain, gave me license to laugh or weep, and kept my chin above water just long enough to take a breath before I went under again until the next week rolled around.
Is that not the power of story?
The good news is that spending time again with the Countess Dowager and Mary and Anna and Tom helped me to realize how far I have actually come since THAT TIME.
God’s story in my life, our story, is nothing if not a page-turner.
It’s not a typical story, with a beginning and an end; timeless as God, my story with him stretches as far back as my pre-created self —
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:15-16)
— weaves through the times that I might prefer to forget —
“Because she loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue her;
I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name.
She will call on me, and I will answer her;
I will be with her in trouble,
I will deliver her and honor her.
With long life I will satisfy her
and show her my salvation” (Psalm 91: 14-16)
— sustains me as I soldier on into evening —
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you (Isaiah 46:4)
— and reassures me that though there are many, many chapters ahead, not one of them will be the final one —
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28)
So as I watched the Crawleys debate the future of Downton Abbey – their highly predictable way of life, progress, how things change – I wasn’t sad anymore. I didn’t need to wait for the next week; the series is over, and that chapter closed.
Overcoming is as simple as taking the next step forward in trust; and though simple is simple, it’s not always easy.
How could it be?
What kind of story would it be if not for the heroes and villains, plot twists and conflicts, romance and battles and birthing and pain?
Yet, the promise is for us all who put our hope in Him:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go…I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:9,5)