Written by Ruth Faber, CEO of EU-CORD
My favourite book as a child was a collection of outlandish short stories with dragons, unusual princesses and wizards. I cannot remember the name of the book, but I have never forgotten the introduction. The author stated that while many terrible things might befall the characters in the stories, each story would have a happy ending. With this degree of certainty, I happily started to read. Since then, no other author has given me the same assurance. You might guess then, that as an adult I am the kind of person who sometimes sneaks to the end of the book to see what happens – I can then temper my level of emotional investment in my favourite characters!
On a similar theme, I once had the privilege to be with a group of women who were witnessing the Christmas story for the first time. I was feeling rather self-conscious about being on stage in my late 20’s with a tea-towel on my head acting out the role of a minor shepherd, but when I looked at the watching women’s faces, I realised something. This story was new to them. Would Mary’s fiancée desert her when he found out she was pregnant? Where was this travel-tired woman going to give birth? Why would angels appear to shepherds? What happens next?
So how does this story of Christmas end?
There will be a birth and visits from strangers; later there will be a rushed escape to Egypt; there will be the ushering in of a new way of seeing the world and each other, and finally, the baby that gazes out of the crib grows into a young man killed by nervous authorities. Is this the end? Are the last verses of the Bible the end? If yes, then it also ends with a promise of return — not a very conclusive ending.
If I believe that in some way my own story is connected to this Christmas story then how does my own story end? Even if I could find where the end might be it’s impossible for me to take a sneak peek. I wanted to write ‘I hope it ends happily’ but I don’t think that is quite correct. Better to say ‘I hope it is lived well or generously', or with love or with patience, or however life can and should be lived.
This year I’ve learned an important lesson. We need to live our own stories – not someone else's version or expectation of it. Be intentional in the day-to-day. Focus less on how something is going to end, and more on how it is being lived in the present.
We don’t always feel in a good place to make the changes that are needed so I leave you with this piece of wisdom from Francis of Assisi: ‘Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’