I love books. As a child, I eagerly awaited our trips to the library. Every book was like a ticket to some wonder-filled, entertaining land. I lingered over every one, savoring the word usage and swimming through the illustrations. From the time I was old enough to hold a crayon, I was writing stories and decorating them with pictures. Many people in my life were sure that I would be an author someday.
And I do have a book inside me that is struggling to come out. It’s an epic adventure of a boy and some friends who end up in a strange land of wonders and miracles and go on a quest to fight evil, restore a kingdom and experience personal transformation along the way. With naïve enthusiasm, I want to fill it with humor, daring, and wits, along with amazing supernatural encounters and some moral lessons as well. I’ve had the skeleton of an outline for years now. I thought if I threw enough stuff into my mind’s ‘stew pot’ something amazing would just pop out. But it hasn’t been like that. I’ve had some flashes of inspiration and there are a couple of notebooks filled with them, but it’s just raw material.
On cable, I discovered ‘The Great Courses: Writing Literature’ lectures. As I watch them and try to digest them, feeling memories from college days reawaken, it is becoming clear to me that there is sooo much more involved in coming up with a story than just some ideas. The plot is a carefully chosen selection of scenes and events and dialogue that move the story along, always with some point to them: showing characters’ desires, motives, traits, presenting challenges, facing challenges, transforming or not. There are all kinds of plot and character arcs. There are flat characters who just serve one particular purpose and round characters that interact with and shape the story. My ‘stew pot’ is getting larger and larger and it’s beginning to feel overwhelming.
The professor imparted some wisdom that had been imparted to him by his high school English teacher: Literature is bringing order out of chaos.
Okay, stay with me here for a moment. Our lives, in fact life in general, can be regarded as just a series of events: some causal, some not, some planned, some not, most of which do not have an overarching theme or redemption arc or really any point. What I mean is, If you listed out your day, or your week, or your life event by event: grocery shopping, trip to the dentist, signing up with a gym, etc., it would look to most people like what Pastor Bill describes as ‘spending’ your life - doing the stuff we all do day to day, year to year - the chaos of existence. And, you know, maybe it IS. Or, maybe there’s more!
Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the Author and finisher of our faith. The author’s job is to carefully pick and choose particular scenes, events and moments out of a life-full of material, and craft it together with a theme, to reveal a plot over time – to make it into a cohesive story and to give meaning to otherwise ordinary events. Jesus does this with each of his followers, and if we take the time to look over our lives with his eyes, we will start to really see it. Foreshadowing? Oh, it’s probably there. A neighbor or teacher or parent that saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. Conflict? No doubt. Then success or failure and the transformation they brought about. Flat characters that came into your life for just a brief time to help or challenge you in one particular way – I’ll bet they’re there. Surely round characters that came into your story and made it richer and deeper, forcing you to grow in new ways. And if you are a Jesus-follower, I guarantee there’s a redemption arc – from sinner to saint, but perhaps from short-tempered to patient, from gruff to tender-hearted, from lone-wolf to people-person? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were also some answered prayers, some healed relationships, some inexplicable blessings, and some tragedies that eventually became triumphs in some way. Looking back, we see the hand of the Lord working throughout our lives to craft a story that brings Him glory and makes us more like Him.
And your story isn’t over. It’s still being lovingly written.
If Literature is bringing order out of chaos, if it is finding powerful meaning in a life full of ordinary experiences, if it is finding a theme that weaves everything into a cohesive whole, and if that can be done for every soul on the planet, then Jesus is truly the greatest Author that the world has ever or will ever know. I don’t think it would be too much to say that every story is HIStory.
PRAYER: O Lord, Author of life, help us to see the beauty of our own story, and give us the courage to share it with others to point them to You. Remind us of Jesus’ story which has the supernatural power to convict souls, break hearts and transform lives. Make us always ready to tell the old, old stories. Amen.