I confess: when I'm interested in a new book, I read the last chapter first. I regularly predict the entire plot of what is supposed to be a suspenseful movie, often based on the trailer alone. I almost always ruin the ending. I collect opinions about all sorts of art before I view it myself.
It's because I value my time, and I want to make sure that whatever time I'm investing is worth it in the end. I can safely say that I start (books, movies, projects, friendships, jobs) with the end in mind. After I've finished this ______, will I consider my time well spent?
But more than these relatively small decisions is the question of how I've spent my life - the sum total of it. And not just the how but also the why - the what for. You see, I'm pretty sure I already know the end of the story of life, at least the way the Bible tells it.
One day, all the stuff we have experienced, all the messy junk (like war, pollution, hunger, poverty, disease, disasters, cruelty, brokenness) will all pass away; earth itself will be recreated, there will be a New Start, so much more unimaginably greater than the first one (the one we're enduring right now). There will be a new nation, with the holiest and most glorious city, adorned like a bride in her wedding dress, ready to meet her husband. And God will no longer be hidden from us, far away. Instead, God's home will be among the people - his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. Everything sucky will be gone forever. The One who made everything in the beginning and finishes everything in the end will pour out life-giving water to everyone who thirsts for it.
But there will be many who never enjoy this free-flowing drink of new life. Some don't recognize that they're parched, so they never ask to be quenched. Some think they will be satisfied with muddy Old-Earth water, not realizing that it will one day dry up. And some just don't think about The End, resolved to "live freely" now and take their chances with what happens later. All of these, instead of One Day experiencing True Peace, instead of celebrating at the Great Feast, instead of discovering the Greatest Love, will remain trapped in a struggle, a perpetual affliction, heartbroken, lonely, and full of fear.
(this is my paraphrase from the book of Revelation, especially chapter 20)
These are two very different endings, but the fact that God reveals this to us now, while we still have time to prepare for the end, is incredibly merciful. God offers us a choice while we are yet living our stories - we get to determine our ending. I believe that there is a lot of mystery surrounding how this happens but regardless, by telling us the end at the beginning, God gives us responsibility for where our story goes.
If you knew that this life - the one that often makes it difficult to get out of bed, that sometimes barely trudges along, that shares depressing tales of misery on every news station - if this life is not the end, not even close to what is Meant-To-Be, then you have reason to hope. You even have something to look forward to, which gives weight and meaning to what you are doing now, because, if you let the "now" be led by the "what-is-coming-then", you start to bring the marvelous ending into existence, just a tiny bit.
This weekend, while some of us meditate on the excruciating Death of the Giver of Life, may we also reflect - Memento mori: Remember that you will die. What will be the meaning of your life on that day?