|Have you ever read a good book and been drawn in particularly by the life of the main character? Maybe it’s her circumstances; maybe it’s his ability to find hope amidst tragedy; maybe it’s her attitude or his faith; or maybe you’re attracted to the character because you identify with some part of her life.
Regardless of the reason, this capability to be drawn in reveals the power of story.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) annual conference in Minneapolis. During the opening night’s plenary session, speaker, author and activist on Native American issues, Richard Twiss, gave the address to a packed house.
Twiss talked about this issue and how each of us is a story and also part of a much larger story or meta-narrative. Collectively, we are part of the story of the human race, part of the story of our nation, community, church group and family. But we also inhabit and are the main character in our own unique story. No one else plays the lead character in this story.
As someone who loves story and is always enticed by good ones, Twiss’ comments got me thinking about how we are also individual stories amidst the larger Christian story: the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.
And like all stories, our individual ones have a beginning, a middle and an end. There are plots, climaxes, conflicts and conclusions. There are supporting characters, antagonists, protagonists, minor characters and numerous others, and they all play some role in our individual story.
We also know that Jesus loves stories. When He told them—many of them in the form of a parable—they were often filled with conflict, difficult choices, mistakes and restoration.
The woman caught in adultery is one such example. Her “story” was filled with conflict, bad choices, disapproval and seeming hopelessness. But in the end, her “story” takes a surprise turn.
Just when we think her life will end—her hope finally running out—Jesus enters her “story” and rescues her, redeems her, saves her.
Her story had a beginning; it had conflict; it had a plot; it had a decisive scene in which the rest of her story would ultimately rest. It had all the elements of being a wonderful novel in the 21st century.
Each one of us also inhabits this same story. We’ve had a beginning; we’ve had conflict; we’ve endured hardship; we’ve enjoyed prosperity; we’ve suffered through the efforts of antagonists and been blessed by protagonists who have helped us through difficult times.
And—at one point in time—our stories will end.
While we’re still in the midst of our stories, we can contribute to the next plot, the next high point, the next significant moment. We have the opportunity to redeem our story, write a new plot, develop an additional season of fruitfulness, contribute to the story of others.
In our broken world, too many people believe their story is already written. They believe the chapter they inhabit right now is the one they will inhabit forever. They believe that nothing more positive can ever be written about their story. It’s basically done.
As we saw with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus can—and does—write new chapters for us. His pen is ready, eager to write a chapter filled with hope and new endeavors. How much more is He eager to write about restoration and redemption than about failure and betrayal?
That doesn’t mean those words will come easily. They don’t for novelists, and they don’t for the authors of each of our stories. Yet Jesus is sitting at our writing desk—right next to us—waiting for us to pick up the pen and collaborate with Him on this story.
What’s your story?
Scott Noble is the editor of the Minnesota Christian Chronicle.