Because We Have Not Yet Arrived at the End

Mar 18, 2014

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

–          James Joyce, “The Dead”


library book sale


I want to write spring stories. I want to write glorious endings.

And why not? I am the storyteller. I am the one tap, tapping at this keyboard.

I know that others in this world are observing spring’s first blooms and taking walks on balmy nights. My snow-covered world is not the world in which everyone is living. I am winter-weary, and I want to move on to other themes.

But I have ceded control over my own stories. I have made a promise (to myself? To God?) to write stories rooted in my own particular place and this particular time.

And this place is snow-covered.

And Easter is still a long way off.


On Saturday I walked the halls of a large art museum. I listened to echoes. I stared into the deep brown eyes of a woman who died in Egypt thousands of years ago. Her funeral portrait is lifelike. It hangs at eye level. She looked about my age. We might have been neighbors, I thought.

After that, each work of art seemed connected to some soul. The silversmith who worked the bracelet. The painter who held the brush. The model who sat for hours. The dancers portrayed in silk. The anonymous ones who wove the tapestry.

Each room revealed more of the vastness of our world. So many people live on planet earth today, I cannot even conceive of them all. But add in every life in every place and each time for all of history? My small mind struggles to believe there is a God who has known and loved each one.


The end of the story is always the best part. It is the place where the messiness of the middle is resolved. The point where pain is redeemed and suffering fades into something beautiful. It is the place where I want to pitch my tent.

But I do not think we are always given that choice.

I keep seeing one particular crucifix. I encountered it in one of the museum’s rooms of medieval art. It was carved out of wood and out of anguish. The Christ figure was elongated and emaciated. Reaching tendrils of warm wooden hair seemed to say that this is pain without end.

This is suffering unfinished.

I drove long miles between the art museum and my house, and I thought about the crucifix. The carving was small enough to hold with one hand, but I wanted it to be bigger. I felt the heaviness of all those lives, like shades in every corner of the galleries. I wanted Christ crucified to be big enough to heal every soul for all time.

And I wanted it finished.

As I drove, snow began to tumble through the air. I could see it churning in the light of streetlamps and headlights. As it dusted rooftops and cornfields, I could feel winter settling back in for a longer stay.


We privilege endings, but we live in the middle.

This place is snow-covered.

And Easter is still a long way off.



  1. Dave Elliott

    Thank You

  2. Sue Tell

    We live in the middle. Easter is a long way off. Or so it seems.

    I love how your words paint pictures that help me see.

    I love that you received the gift of museum time.

    I love how God met you in that place.

    • Christie Purifoy

      You are right Sue. God did meet me in that museum. At the time it felt like a meeting with doubt, but God does meet us in the hard questions and uncertainties. This, too, may be an answer to our prayer for Lent: “Search me, God, and know my heart.”

  3. Carol Russell

    Myrna showed me today at lunch a picture of your pretty snow covered and fenced Pennsylvania vegetable garden. I identify with your statement, “I wanted Christ crucified to be big enough to heal every soul for all time.”

    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you for being here, Carol. Much love to you and your family.

  4. Kris Camealy

    This long lingering in this relentless season makes me ache for Easter, hungry for the hallelujah’s. But there is a quiet beauty to this tiresome process, you discovered it in the halls of the museum, and in the noticing of the snow as it swirled in the air. He is big enough, His death somehow covers all and we cannot understand it. Search me and know me…I pray this with you. He continues to reveal Himself in your words, Christie.

  5. Gwen Acres

    “I wanted Christ crucified to be big enough to heal every soul for all time.” I really want that to be true. I can live a long middle life but I want happy endings.You are a beautiful soul Christie.

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Sigh. This is . . . perfect. Thank you. I wrestle with the exact same question/doubt: how can God possibly love ALL of us? Most frequent place this happens? An airport! What has helped me the most with that struggle is the tiny bit of info I’ve gleaned in my spiritual direction training about Teilhard de Chardin’s ideas about the Cosmic Christ. A Christ so big, so all-encompassing, that we simply cannot imagine him. Beyond Jesus, who was the self-limited, only-for-a-fragment-of-time Incarnate One, this cosmic One is Wisdom who danced at creation, who knows the stars by name, who holds things together. Now that picture helps me somehow. I don’t begin to understand it, but it helps. We live in the middle all the time, don’t we? And yet, I still love to say, “He is risen, indeed!” in the Easter morning liturgy. Yes, I do, indeed.

  7. Ashley Larkin @ Draw Near

    You stir true and deep places, Christie. I admire the way you tell the unfinished middle in such gorgeous understated tragedy, with hope still rising over the edges. It’s one of God’s gifts in you, I am sure of that. And this reminds me of how much I must get back to the Portland Art Museum. Like, right away. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest