It should be obvious from reading The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years that Ethan’s faith plays an important role in his character. Sometimes he succeeds as a Christian and sometimes not. Christians are not perfect, although some critics of the faith suggest we ought to be so 100% of the time. For them, seeing a Christian fail can be a moment of triumph when they can point a finger and loudly exclaim, “Hypocrite!”
If you have ever read the Bible, one fact should strike you: It is full of “hypocrites.” Of the many characters in the Bible, only one is without flaws. All the rest in some way fail, often spectacularly. They are, after all, fallen individuals, not plaster saints, and God lays out their failures for the rest of mankind to see and learn from.
One of the most interesting examples of this is King David and the Bathsheba affair. I believe, having assumed the throne after so many years of being hunted by Saul, he became arrogant. Success can do that. I think 2 Samuel 11:1 suggests this when it says, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah.” David’s place was with the army in the field and not back in Jerusalem strolling on the roof of the palace to become involved with Bathsheba.
You would think someone like David, “a man after God’s own heart,” would have admitted his lapse in judgment immediately following his night with Bathsheba. But no, when she became pregnant, he doubled down and arranged the death of her husband in a misguided attempt to hide what he had done. Arrogance begat lust, and lust begat adultery, and adultery begat murder. Sin is like that.
It was roughly a year after the event before David finally had a “wow” moment concerning what he had done. A year later! Along came Nathan the Prophet to tell a story that backed David into a corner, and he ended up convicting himself. Only then did David finally recover from his denial and accept his own failure—and face his discipline. I have no doubt that during that year, David frequently had moments where he considered what he had done was wrong, and I have no doubt but that each time he rationalized it away somehow. To get well, you must first admit you are sick.
Christians are not perfect, and Ethan is not Jesus Christ. He loves God much like King David did, and like David, Ethan sometimes fails to measure up to God’s expectations. And like David, sometimes Ethan gets a little smug and full of himself, and it catches up with him. He refused to accept responsibility for his failures and more importantly, he refused to seek the remedy, preferring instead to seek relief in a bottle. When a Christian is out of sorts with God, he can sink so far down that there is nowhere to look but up.
I intentionally wrote Ethan’s character as “flawed” and “human.” After reading an early manuscript for The Last Day of Forever, my wife commented, “Ethan is too perfect.” My reply was, “Wait until you see him in An Eternity of Four Years.” After experiencing success out west and returning home to find Rachel waiting for him, he seemed in command of his world and his life. His smug “victory dance” before the mirror in the closing chapter of Last Day is a hint of “pride goes before the fall”—and of things to come.
One point I wanted to make in these two books is God orchestrates our circumstances. How we react to them is our choice. As Blue tells Ethan in Eternity, “Adversity makes you bitter or better, but you choose which.” And also in Eternity, Rachel summed up the underlying theme of the books when she challenged Doctor Johnson with Romans 8:28. (I’ll let you look the passage up.)
So, surprise! I am a Christian, and like Ethan and David, I admit I am not perfect. I admit I sometimes don’t seek the solution I should seek. I admit my faith is sometimes weak, and even on occasion, I choose “bitter” over “better.” In other words, I’m a work in progress that will see perfection only in eternity. If you wish to call Ethan or me a hypocrite, that is your choice, but at least do so with the understanding that none of us are claiming the status of deity.
To get well, you must first admit you are sick.