Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Right Kind of Ending (Part Two)

In last Tuesday's post about the right kind of ending, we discussed four different kinds of endings: The depressing, the sad, the bittersweet, and the happy. Today, we're going to talk about the spiritual implications and values of each type of ending. And I was going to finish it today, but I'm afraid it's simply impossible. :)

The Depressing Ending
When I'm wandering around, crying inside because the characters have no hope for the future, I'm not sure that it has much value. Well, maybe a little. But in thinking over the books I've read with depressing endings--like the death we discussed in the last post the day after the couple's engagement--what is the author trying to say, and what is the reader left with?

"Life is ugly. Life hurts. This is reality."

But God doesn't call us to ugliness, or to hurt. Believe it or not, it isn't reality. Ugliness and hurt, pain and sorrow encroach on the original reality of Eden. God's original created reality was a place of beauty, happiness, love, and fulfillment. He laid the foundation of the world every day of the Creation week by saying 'It is good." Not "Well, sometimes they'll be okay, but there will always be a fly in the ointment. After all, we can't expect perfection." We were perfect--very good. Depression is not reality; it's depravity. So the question would be, should we represent depravity in literature in the form of "Too Late" endings? To discuss this, we have to return to the point in Scripture where Adam sullied reality with depravity.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
-Genesis 3:6-8

God could have said "The end. Adam, it is too late. You made a mistake, and nothing will ever be the right again." But He didn't. In his very first correction, he plants a seed of hope:

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring   and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

In God's very first reproof, for mankind's very first sin, before he deals with Adam and Eve he promises the overthrow of evil and the hope of Jesus Christ. The first prophecy of the Messiah in all of Scripture is the first part of God's correction after the Fall. He makes these promises in the time of the siege of Jerusalem, in their exile to Babylon, and in the time of pain afterwards. God starts with the overthrow of evil's source and the hope of our salvation before he details the consequences for our present sin. Oh, yes, we are corrected. It hurts. Men and women still suffer the consequences of the Fall. But the point I'm trying to make here, is that we are never corrected without hope. The main theme of the Bible is not "Too late for the sinner," but "Hope in Jesus Christ".

So the conclusion to all this? Well, we can't deny that for some people in the Bible the ending was Too Late. Not everyone accepts the hope God offers. It's a legitimate theme, and a true one. But I would encourage one principle regarding the depressing (or Too Late) ending:

1. It should not be the only theme.
We live as Christians in a world of hope, and everything we do should sing of that hope to others. Even if several characters end in despair, we should be immersing ourselves in a strongly-emphasized message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope that it contains. It's okay if the author includes the theme of Too Late, whether in love, personal salvation, death of a relationship or a person, etc., but they should include it for the purpose of a warning. And the warning should be balanced by the characters who chose the right path, and had a blessed outcome.

Some of this is my own personal thought. It isn't a hard and fast rule. But if anything, I'm simply encouraging that we look at the mindset behind each ending, and evaluate it for what it really is trying to say.

The Bittersweet Ending
This one is quite different. Sure, you may shed a briny drop or two; you may even feel depressed. But you aren't left hopeless, because the main theme of the bittersweet ending is yearning or redemption.

1. Yearning
Though as Christians we are saved by the blood of Christ and have hope for the future, we live in broken bodes. Our frail spirit wars against our self-seeking flesh, and we daily realize that because of the Fall, this present world can no longer satisfy. This broken world is not our home, for it is separated from the Father--and He created us to be one with him.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ"
-Philippians 3:20

Often the sadness is of the death of a favorite character. But we don't grieve because they have gone Home at last. Our grief is two-fold: first of all, that we must stay behind, and second of all, that the piece of completion this person was in the Body of Christ is now no longer completing us here on earth. Like Frodo bearing the Ring, or Christian bearing his burden, we struggle on, and the loss of every companion makes Heaven more complete, and earth more empty.

Though yearning is often the longing to go Home, we sometimes shed tears (or at least I do) over a character overcoming after a heavy struggle. Why should we cry over triumph? That leads to the second theme of the bittersweet ending, the theme of redemption.

2. Redemption
This is when the character has won. They have accomplished their aim, through the grief of loss, through physical and mental exhaustion, and every form of hardship, and you're left flat-out bawling with the closed book in your hands. Redemption implies cost. We were redeemed through the heavy cost of God's Son. Every lesser imitation of the Messiah theme in literature implies a heavy cost, a sacrifice, that leaves the characters with the golden promise of restoration. But we weep because someone paid a price that no-one else could--and that leaves the characters never the the same again. Often in literature this is the sacrifice of martyrdom.

And both of these things are very Biblical themes indeed.

Next time we'll finish up with the Happy and Sad endings.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Oh Lady B,
    I'm loving this post!!!! You make me wan't the next one.Couldn't you give me a sneak peek? I know....
    This will help me in writing my own stories! Excellent post!
    Love, Sister

    1. Thank-you Sister Dear. :)

      No sneak peeks...but love and cuddles instead!


  2. Dear Lady B.,
    I agree wholeheartedly.
    I must say that I love happy endings, but it is the bittersweet ones which usually move me most intimately and leave the deepest impression. Your comments on Redemption in particular sum up what I have so often felt and never been able to articulate. God bless you!
    ~The Philologist ;)

    1. Dear Philologist ;)

      Many thanks. :) I am glad to be able to put it all into words for you. I agree, I find the bittersweet endings to be the most moving, and in the end, some of the most satisfying of books.

      I'm glad you stopped by!


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