Left to Pick Up the Pieces
This is the first in a series of articles that will explain the inspirations that led to The Rose’s Thorn. One of the biggest themes of the book is the idea of what does it mean to be left picking up the pieces after everyone leaves. Maybe twelve, thirteen years ago, my church seemed to have an exodus of people my age leaving the church: some to the mission field, some to seminary, some to other churches and some to … whatever. There was a great burden on me because I was one of the few of my age left to represent our group in the church. I felt this huge responsibility to stand in the gaps where the outgoing people no longer were in the ministries they served in. All the while, it seemed like when I checked in with those people who left, their lives seemed to be fuller or better whereas I always stayed the same, in the same situation.
Now all of this may seem very honorable in a loyalty kind-of-way, and rightfully so. Perhaps there is something very noble in “going down with the ship,” or being the “last man standing,” but it is also very lonely. Just like anything, there are sacrifices that need to be made if you choose duty over what you want. There are consequences for being the good guy. This is where the conceit of Christopher came into being.
In Christopher, we have the archetype of choosing duty over everything else. Even today, we have many people who choose this path as well – servicemen, teachers, missionaries, pastors, single parents to name a few. They give up so much of their time, effort and lives into the greater good despite the inconvenience to them. What Christopher had to give up was a chance to stay with his love, Isabella, and as we peek into his life ten years after the Bellarian Invasion, he seems to be doing relatively well despite all the self-awareness he possesses. He’s been successful in helping Pelagia to rebuild and grow, and he seems to getting over Isabella until the news that she’s coming back. Isn’t that the hardest thing when a specter from your past arrives to remind you of what your life could have been? That’s a story for another week when we can go over the idea of the two roads that is and might have been.
Here is an encouragement to all of you that find yourself in the position of choosing duty over love, comfort, family or financial stability. Whether you are in the ministry, choosing a career that will better other people or protecting the freedoms your country has afforded its citizens, your sacrifice is worth it, and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. What you do is important, and no matter how bad the regret might be, hold on to the determination that has put you upon this path in the first place.
What I found to be true is that even though I felt I was alone in the gaps, trying to keep everything together at my church, the truth is that I was never alone. New people came into the church to fill those responsibilities. Much like Christopher has Xonor, Apelles, Gerald and others, we never see that God has provided for us and instead are focused on the ME and importance of MY sacrifice. There are others in the gap with you, if you’d only open your eyes.
John 15:13 says, “Great love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” If I may totally take this passage out of context, but this is the sacrifice that this book honors. No matter how alone you may feel or how much the doubt creeps in when things aren’t going the right way, you remember your duty.