Have you ever become so intensely connected to something?
Intense enough to forget everything around you? To be in the moment of a book you are reading, and feeling compelled to become part of the story as it unveils in your mind? To be so connected to a happy moment that time seems to vanish? Even, to grieve in another’s situation so much that it feels as if it’s connected to you yourself?
There have been a few times in life when it seemed that time was suspended, and nothing else mattered except for the next paragraph of a book I was engrossed in. One such story was written by Nevil Shute, “On The Beach”. It was penned during the cold war and was published in 1957, just three years before his death. It is the story of an atomic world gone mad. Every missile and bomb has been utilized and the terrifying radioactive cloud is drifting around the globe. The story focuses on those few left alive in a secluded part of Australia. An American submarine. Local military. And a final group of local citizens. These are all the souls that are alive in the entire world. And they are simply living until the radioactive reality takes their life from them.
I remember being so enthralled by his writing and story, that one morning while driving to work on I-10, about 1975, in Houston, I looked around me and noted that all of this would be gone in just a few short months when the radiation appeared. I had to shake myself out of the reality that the story painted and slowly returned to the present world of real life.
It’s in these intense stories I find myself transported through the years to the moment of the story line. Few authors have given me that ability, however, those that do write a supreme story permeated with a sense of reality.
I know I got this ability to enjoy the story so much when Frank and Joe Hardy solved those many mysteries in my early years of reading. After I passed the books of Dr Seuss, my next real memory of reading were these stories. They seemed to have a life I would never have. Living in places where lakes froze, and the mysteries were all around them! This probably got me started down the road of trying to “live in the story”…
This is probably why I love Historical Fiction the most, and Science Fiction. Someone has taken the time to research (past, present and possibilities of the future) and then rehearse the story to the reader. A well written novel that contains as much of the factual past as can be garnered and used to paint the story of a character, or time in history, regardless of whether the story or event is factual or a facsimile of the times.
Another such author is William Dietrich who has penned a story about Hadrian’s Wall. It is mostly set around a wall built by early Rome as it established a boundary line between conquered lands and the Scottish soldiers that harassed them at every turn.
There are a number of authors who grab my interest and write with a depth of history that makes me feel like I know the area. James Michener writes about subjects from all around the globe, but The Covenant and The Source are probably my two favorites.. James Alexander Thom told detailed stories about early Americana and writes the early history of the USA. His pages cover the gambit of people and recites stories based upon factual findings. People like those intrepid explores, William & Clark (and relative George Rogers Clark), Tecumseh, Sacajawea, the Mandan Indians (North Dakota). Places from east to west coast, ever looking for that trail through the wilderness and mountains, or water pathway that will open up the continent.
I’m afraid that I’m about to get distracted
and make a laundry list of names
that will lose yours, and mine, focus.
The other main book that grabs my attention like this is the Holy Bible itself. When you take a moment to study what is happening on any scene, and grasp a little bit of the culture and historical value, then you can read with sort of an enlightened view of the richness and depth of story. Every time I read any portion of the scripture, I attempt to place myself into the story line and see the event from the participants view points.
Consider for a moment the Apostle Paul’s declaration at the ending of his life and with the last known communication to his protege, Timothy.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 KJV)
Other translations say, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering”. His ending days and effort was already consuming him. There will come a time shortly that there will be nothing else to pour out. It’s the “beginning” of his “end”. It may take a little time, but the ending is here and the process has begun.
I imagine Paul, in a Roman cell, hastily penning his last letter outward to all those missions and missionaries, teachers and pastors. One last word of encouragement. One last word of hope. He had come so far from those early days of rejecting Jesus and harassing those Christians who chose to follow the Messiah. He heard his calling while blinded on that road to Damascus. As he grew in stature as a staunch defender, missionary, and church planter, I imagine he could only continue to hold remorse for those early days.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:21-24 NKJV)
“I’m in a great distress. I am ready to go, but it is more needful for you that I remain.” He calls for Timothy to come speedily. Luke (probably got his great discourse of gospel and Acts from much information provided by Paul) is with him, and so is Mark (probably wrote the gospel based upon Paul’s teaching). Bring the cloak. Bring me the books. Especially the parchments. He commissions others to outlying places. (2 Timothy 4) He’s ever ready and prepared to continue his calling and fulfill his mission.
But he’s also ready to experience the gain that comes from death and life well lived.
I get lost in the moment when I read stories like this. But then, you shake yourself alert. Stop the daydreaming. Look around you at the work that needs to be done. And then you shoulder your load and get back into reality and start working for the future.
Challenged by those who have done before what you are called and willing to do today.