By Makaila Mobley
How much are you aware of the story God is telling?
God is a storyteller. Just look at the Bible. It is more story than anything else. Our Holy Scriptures are an unapologetically complex, messy, epic, brilliant story. Learning to see through this context changes everything.
As ambassadors of Christ we are to tell the story, but we are also to live the story. For it is living the story that those outside looking in are inspired and drawn in.
Story is the language of the heart and the one who made the heart, wrote this into the fabric of our being. Story is not just a church thing, it is a human thing, and it is a God thing. It is a profound point of connection between us and our God. There is a reason why we keep going to the movies and reading books and sharing stories over dinner. Our hearts crave story.
So, let us consider what exactly story is, what are the common elements? First, there is a desire set in the heart of a character. Then there are obstacles that build against that desire until achieving it looks utterly impossible. Often times these obstacles are the strategic demise of a villain who is committed to the destruction of this desire. But the hero has a hope that won’t let go and a passion for justice that burns bright on the darkest of nights.
On a universal human level we ache for redemption, we long for love to win, we have been given hearts that beat like a battle drum for justice. We are always interpreting our circumstances, attributing meaning and understanding to them and we need to see resolution.
Do You Want to Live a Good Story?
Do you want to live a good story? Do you want a story that is not only rooted in the larger story of the gospel, but is actually a reflection of it, a living, breathing symbolic representation of the eternal redemption that Christ has bought with his own blood?
If you hold resignation in your heart and you have learned to get through the difficult times by shrugging your shoulders and saying I guess we cannot know why God allows such pain, you must turn from this defeat, there is no faith in such a mindset. And without faith, you will have no story. Faith is what believes in the good heart and unstoppable strength of your Hero even when all options have been cut off.
You have been entrusted with a desire, you must see it come to fruition. But the tension builds when forces move in against this desire. Maybe you have won serval battles over this, your character is being built, you are growing into someone an audience would root for. But don’t be surprised when the villain of this tale moves in and strikes a blow so severe and so devastating, that it blocks your way at every angle and the fulfillment of the desire God entrusted to you has become utterly impossible. I know exactly how this feels. You have been forced, by God it would seem, to give up, to grieve and accept defeat. You have lost. But then life is breathed into you, something is whispered, a small spark of determination is handed to you and you find the courage to rise above the ashes. You remember your Hero and the hope burns bright again. You might be corned by your enemy, his sword against your throat, but you catch a glimpse of the Hero moving stealthily through the shadows, He is coming to rescue, to avenge, to redeem. You are filled with a gutsy boldness, a fire that burns in your eyes as faith is kindled and you wait for your Hero to make His move. This boldness confuses the enemy, he is thrown off by the sudden shift in power. It makes no sense, he thought he had defeated you. And yet, victory burns in your eyes. The Hero will come through.
Story must be driven to the point of the impossible. As an audience, we have to wonder how in the world will this work out? And the brilliance of the storyteller cuts a path to victory that no one saw coming and no one but our Hero could achieve.
The Stories Abraham and Moses were Entrusted With
Consider the stories that Abraham and Moses were entrusted with.
God planted a desire in Abraham’s heart to father a son and see a nation rise up in a land promised by God. It was God who not only gave Abraham this promise, but also cultivated the desire for it in both Abraham and his wife Sarah. God spoke, made his will known, and then fanned the flame until it became their live’s driving force. But God didn’t just hand them the promise, actually he drove them straight into the impossible. The promise might have seemed a little far-fetched at the time is was given, but God pushed it off and made them wait until it looked utterly impossible. And then he moved.
God made the desire to see his people free burn in Moses’ heart. But they were not free at the first request. God empowered Moses to go rounds with Pharaoh. God did a wonder, the Egyptian magicians matched it again and again until finally God stumped them, but still Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not give them their freedom. Then at the dawn of the darkest of nights, it seemed God had finally answered the Hebrew’s prayer and moved in with enough power to grant them their freedom. But did He not see the obstacle of the Red Sea lying directly across their path? Why had God kindled the flame of freedom in their hearts only to lead them to this place where victory was impossible? Well, He did it because He is a master storyteller and to show them that He is God and it is by His hand and His hand alone that their desires are fulfilled.
And notice that both of these characters are pointed at the Promised Land, and yet the specific desire entrusted to them and the fulfillment of this desire took on very different forms. The same is true of us. We are all pointed at the redemption of the universe through Jesus Christ and the consummation of His Kingdom when all things will be fully restored, and still we have been entrusted with a very specific role within the story.
Does your life reflect the gospel, not just in moral conduct and evangelical mission, but does your story demonstrate that if you hold onto God even in the impossible places, God will come through and redeem? Can people watch your life unfold as a story and be inspired to know the God who moves and acts on your behalf? Do you have a hope birthed through faith? Can you rejoice in affliction knowing that even then, God is plotting for your victory? None of this is easy, but God specializes in non-easy things.
If you study the art of storytelling, you will discover that a very effective form of conveying an epic story is through a fractal design, this just means that all the subplots mirror the same structure of the overarching plot. This is what we see in Scripture. This is what we see in our everyday lives if we have the faith to follow the plot lines entrusted to us. There is always a larger story, an ancient and eternal story that we are rooted in. And there is also the smaller story of your subplot.
Just as Ruth says to Boaz, “spread your wings over me, for you are a Redeemer,” (Ruth 3:9) to echo Boaz’s previous statement to her that she has placed herself under the wings of THE Redeemer, meaning God (Ruth 2:12). The larger story is that God has sent Jesus, the Redeemer to redeem Israel and all who believe. But God also writes the subplot of Ruth’s life and sends Boaz to redeem her so that we can see this fractal of the larger story.
Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. These fractals are still happening, that is why we cannot forsake the passion and calling God has sown in our hearts when we are driven to impossible places. It is in the impossible places that we are called to have faith and believe the promises of God and to not let go unless he blesses us (Genesis 32:26). Seek His direction, He will show you the path to victory that He has chosen (Isaiah 30). We cannot assume we know what to hold onto and what to let go, that is why we do not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). God will show the way, and when He does, risk believing Him even when it looks impossible (see Hebrews 3).
If we move onto another path at every roadblock, we forsake our plot lines and our lives do not demonstrate the power, the redemption, the steadfast love of our God.
We are the ambassadors of Christ, called into the epic mission of the redemption of the universe. We are rooted in the larger story and we tell it over and over and over again, for it is the story from which ALL other stories are birthed. And even as we tell it, we live it, for it is in demonstrating the power of the gospel with our faith throughout the subplot we have been given that the words we preach of the larger story ring true and others are inspired to hear more about this Jesus of Nazareth who moves with power and lavish love on our behalf.
“The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:11)
“My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:38-39)
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
If God is for us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-32,37)
Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full assurance. You know how we lived among you for your benefit (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)