Finding Life In The Commas

“The best lives are riddled with ambiguities and lined with shadows. Each of them is a story about grace.”

~Marilyn McEntyre


Life is lived in the commas, among dashes and eclipses, but many of us prefer the period.

We like clear resolution and a definitive end.

  • I am right. She is wrong.
  • They are evil. We are good.
  • You are at fault and need to stop whining, so we can wrap this up and go home.

Wielding periods, we can slam doors, burn bridges, and shake the disgusted dust off our feet. How satisfying to stamp Mystery Solved, Case Complete, Game Over, The End to our drama, our questions, and our doubts.

But the truth unfolds in the commas.

  • In some ways he’s right, but not completely.
  • She may be wrong, but is on the right track.
  • We are all sometimes evil, and we are all capable of great good. The line goes through, not between us.

What are we learning when resolution eludes us? What growth takes place as life’s sentences run on? Commas must be feared if the world has no author. Truth feels slippery, lines quickly blur, we all stumble along, waiting for our worst fears to come true.

Waiting In The Commas

In the season of Advent we wait, and remember the ancient rumors have turned out to be true. There is an author in charge, the perfect end even no unfolds, and we’ve been handed the plot line–not a list of pious opinions, but a person to follow.  Jesus. Our light in the darkness, our guide through the chaos, our power to love when surrounded by hate, he promises to redeem, restore, transform even our most dreadful mistakes (if we let him) into breathtaking beacons of hope.

One day the period will be put to all evil, death, and misery. For now God waits, patiently moving through the good and the bad, wasting nothing, giving up on no-one, desiring that everyone on earth run into his outstretched arms.

But, remember, he uses our arms for the job. He demands that we love others the way we long to be loved, even when our punctuation is out of sync.

It’s not easy.

Flourishing in the commas requires humility (I could be wrong, because there’s more to this than I can see), hope (God is not absent just because I’m tempted to despair) and habit (I will keep my heart open, continue to love, especially the people whom nobody else will love).

1 Corinthians 13, 2 Peter 3:8-10

Where do you see the love of God at work in the commas?

 The quote at the top is from Marilyn McEntyre’s lovely new book, Word by Word, A Daily Spiritual Practice. A perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite reader.


8 thoughts on “Finding Life In The Commas

  1. Jeff Quandt

    Beautiful, Janet. “The line runs through us, not between us.” Of all that has been written about putting aside differences for the sake of unity and national healing in the past three weeks your words identify the true nature of reconciliation better than anything said so far. Thank you for reminding us that life is a process guided by our Father who is peace and reconciliation. May that mind be in us as it was, is and will always be in Christ Jesus.

    Life and Peace,

  2. Suzy Taylor

    Phenominal. This I will keep to re-read and digest again for sure.

    Thank you for sharing this depth and scriptural truth.


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