Many of us declare dependence upon God but if it were a charge on a rap sheet we’d probably walk free. We have thoughts about life and ways that we want to live but those thoughts and ways sometimes have more to do with us than with God. We pursue Him just enough to glimpse and chat about Him but not enough to be grasped by Him.

This Advent season challenges such self-absorption and self-sufficiency.

Joseph—that enigmatic character of the Christmas story—had some thoughts and plans of his own, surely. Marry Mary. Have a family. Settle down. Mind his own business. Build his own business. Then it all fell apart.

BookendsHe did not plan for a pregnant fiancé. It’s not what he was thinking when the marriage was arranged. It’s not the way he wanted to start a family.

Shattered but noble, Joseph concocted his own plan—a gracious plan; an exit strategy. Until the angelic visitation in his dream—“Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” (Matthew 1:20)

750 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. (Isa 55:8)

Notice the structure; the syntax.

My thoughts—your thoughts—your ways—My ways.


Perhaps Joseph had pondered such words before, and realized that God’s thoughts and God’s ways start and finish everything about our lives; they bookend our own thoughts and actions.

We live in the illusion that our thoughts and ways produce legacies and change the world. But they are mere sentences in the story that God has been writing and will continue to write long after our days. We place so much confidence in ourselves and so little in Him.

The thoughts and ways of men and women between Genesis 3:16 (“He shall bruise you on the head”) and Matthew 1:25 (“She gave birth to a son”) amounted to little. What matters is the One who comes to us, guides us, and surpasses us. We are neither the beginning nor the end of the story. We are surrounded by Him. He has charge.

Take heart. He encompasses our lives. Nothing is off-script. Advent reminds us that Christ is both the beginning and the end. Stress less. Trust more.

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5 Responses to Bookends

  1. Tim Riter says:

    David, one of your better posts. I loved how you identified the chiasmus in him-us-us-him. Your writing style continues to grow, And I loved the use of fragments in paragraph 3. A delightful example of how style impacts meaning!

  2. Ashley Gorka says:

    What a great reminder thanks!

  3. Marica says:

    Thank you.

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