Use commas instead of periods during the dialogue of your story.
I don’t know about you, but particular aspects of my story feel as if they’ve reached an ending. Or, at the very least, that’s the self-talk swirling around in my mind.
“I guess you’ve really screwed it up now. It’s never going to change. This is what your life is from now until you’re six feet under.”
That’s the fear talking. The doubt. The uncertainty. It’s wondering if the padded walls of my imagination will keep fears about the future locked in.
2020, for instance. Although it feels like we should mark this with a period on normal life, it’s really just a blip in the span of history. Six months in and everyone is wishing that we were ringing in 2021 already. It’s been a YEAR, hasn’t it? Pandemics, looting, rioting, political infighting, the economic shutdown, travel bans, toilet paper and sanitizing wipe shortages, face masks, cancel culture, social distancing… I’m sure that I could go on and on. It’s not just kind of overwhelming; it is overwhelming. In an “I’m going to stay in bed and hide” kind of overwhelming. “Give me all the Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey” kind of overwhelming. “I’m actually tired of streaming Netflix” kind of overwhelming.
“I just want my old life back” overwhelming.
Who else is raising your hands at that statement?
In the scheme of things though, this pandemic-encrusted, isolated year of 2020 is just another pause, another reset. Life will go on. It will return to normal. Even if it’s a “new normal,” the future is still unwritten. We’ll survive and we’ll go about our daily lives, doing what we do best – facing life square in the eye each and every day.
Pandemic aside, haven’t you ever felt that when something bad happens in your life, it’s the end of everything as you know it?
We have a very dear friend, whose husband was my husband’s best friend. One night, playing softball on the church softball team, he walked off the field, had a massive heart attack and died. He was the picture of health so it was completely unexpected. His widow had two young sons to care for, both under the age of 5. She was sure her life was over. For well over a year, I called her almost every night. I listened while she cried. While she raged and grieved and literally feared for the future. I listened while she talked through how she would handle whatever was to come. She was sure that her life had ended. All her dreams and hopes for a good life ahead, gone, along with her husband. But years later, she’s finally dating again – my husband’s other best friend – and is so utterly happy, it makes me want to cry. But it took a long moment to get there…
Like her, I’m definitely guilty of putting a period where a comma should be.
I don’t know what the future will bring my way. The things that bother me today may be forgotten tomorrow. I certainly hope so.
When my husband was laid off several years ago and we didn’t know how we would pay the bills? It all looked and felt like the end of something, but in reality, it was the beginning of something else.
Today, even with years and years worth of knowledge that rarely – if ever – is any situation stagnant, I nevertheless tend to think things will stay static. I think that things that may seem like they’ll never change, will never change. Yet, that’s completely untrue.
True, the situation may never change to my satisfaction. But that’s very different from the “thing” never changing at all. It’s very different than ending the sentence, paragraph, chapter or book altogether.
It doesn’t mean that even if the circumstances don’t work out the way I would hope, that things are hopeless. Call me an optimist, but even when I read the book of Job, especially when I read the book of Job, I read more hope than despair into his story. I mean, he lost just about everything: his family, savings, servants, his livelihood. He had his wife and friends, but they were the worst kind of friends, finding fault with how he handled his downfall and generally giving him bad advice. He developed some kind of festering skin condition that made his life a living hell. Chapter upon chapter, verse upon verse in the book of Job is dedicated to exposing how bleak and impossible his future seemed.
The one thing he didn’t lose? His faith and belief that God loved him. That God was with him in the middle of his trial. That God was using his suffering for a bigger purpose.
Job by Leon Bonnat
When it was inconceivable that things couldn’t get worse, they did. Satan and God had a little powwow; Satan knew the depravity of mankind and he was betting that Job would cave and despair of God. (Mariah Cuthburt always comes to mind when I hear the word “despair.” In Anne of Green Gables, when Anne is complaining about being in the “depths of despair,” Mariah retorts that “to despair means to turn your back on God.”) Satan thought that Job would turn his back on God. But God knew Job’s heart in a way that Satan could never know it; God knew that Job was wholly His.
...if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your prosperous state.
Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be. ~ Job 8:6 & 7
God met Job in utter dejection, revealing Himself to him, allowing Job to question and doubt. By the end of the book of Job, Job’s fortunes are restored. His health is restored. New children are born to him. Everything that was taken away from him is given back and amplified.
It’s appropriate to use a comma if there’s action in the middle of a sentence.
Everyone around Job thought that his life was effectively over. They thought that a period had marked his story. Bad stuff had happened and there was no way he could come back from it. Yet while his life was crumbling around him, there was still action taking place; Satan and God were behind the scenes, battling for his soul. All the tragic circumstances in his life? Commas bookending the end and then beginning of another part of his story.
Whatever hard things are going on in your life? In my life? Those things are set apart by commas. They’re parts of the story, not the whole story. Circumstances change. People change. Life… life will change. However difficult it may be right now, don’t give up. Lean into the hardship. Trust that the story will be different in the future. Know that there is something better ahead. Know that whatever has been taken away from you will be restored. Have faith in the One who is writing your story.