As I think back on 2013 on the cusp of Christmas I’ve been asking myself what is it that I learned this year. What was the one thing that sticks out as my take-away thought for 2013. The answer that I have been pulling out of my mental hat is a line that I got from Doug Wilson- “The story always wins.”
I have not been one to orient myself towards fiction in the past. I have enjoyed reading a good story but usually have failed to see how it affects my reality and how I live my life. That is what changed in my thinking this year and because of that my love for story has grown significantly.
The Desiring God National Conference this year was centered around the life of C.S. Lewis. Speakers like Doug Wilson and Joe Rigney showed from their own experiences how reading the Chronicles of Narnia shaped their understanding of God and how to be a godly man. Joe Rigney was particularly and deeply helpful in his talk on living like a Narnian and his book on what he learned about Christian discipleship in light of the stories in the Narnia series. Rigney said his favorite character in the series is King Lune who demonstrates what it means to be a leader. Drawing from the following quote he cuts it down to this: “First in, last out, laughing loudest.”
“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.” The Horse and His Boy
I was also helped by Doug Wilson and N.D. Wilson’s thoughts on the power of story and the reality that we are all in a story. Doug Wilson said that at the end of time when the curtains are pulled back we will see what the Author has been doing throughout the expanse of time and we will say that it was the greatest story every written. ND Wilson talks about seeing your life as a small part of a grander story. Our lives are not the central characters but we come on stage and exit very quickly in the corridor of time. Play your part well and make it count for the central character- Jesus.
My pastor has been preaching through the book of Mark. The last several months we have been camped out on Passion Week as Jesus enters Jerusalem and is about to be crucified. He has done an extremely helpful thing in painting the picture, week after week, of what is going on as Jesus goes through each day. Dave has set the backdrop, showed the context and reminded us each week of the darkness that is building. “There is treachery all around.” By pulling out the realness and rawness and darkness of Passion Week Dave has helped me see with new eyes the sinfulness of the pharisees, the abandonment of the disciples, and the weight of sinfulness that Jesus carried. I can’t help but grow in my love for Jesus and the gospel by hearing these things. I feel quite blessed to sit under his preaching.
Every good story has tension. What attracts us to a gripping storyline like Breaking Bad? It is the tension that is created because of problems. Sometimes these are problems that result from circumstances outside our control (natural disaster for example) and sometimes they are a result of our sin (hate, lust or revenge for example). Novels create tension. Television shows have tension. Movies have tension. Our lives have tension. We want to know what is going to happen and that creates engagement in it on the part of the reader or viewer.
Yet when it comes to our personal lives we mostly want to run from tension. Tension creates problems that are not enjoyable. We want to run towards safety and security and stuff that will alleviate tension because we think that will give us happiness. More stuff, nicer clothes, a bigger house, a longer vacation, a safer neighborhood. That which we love to watch from a distance is the very thing we want to escape from in the reality of our day to day lives.
This is what I’ve seen in 2013; don’t run from tension, Kyle. Embrace the suck. There is a story being written in the tension of my life and I should want the Author of it all to get the glory now and at the end of the age. I want to see that I trusted in the Author of my story and not the stuff around the story.
God gave me a house to live in and bless others through. I want to put Jesus on display by owning a house and not make the house my treasure. Tomorrow it could burn down but God is still on his throne. God gave me a body to glorify him. I want to use it to lift a thousand burdens of those hurting around me and not treasure it above them. My heart could give out tomorrow but God is still on his throne. I want my marriage to be a picture of Jesus loving the church. My wife and kids could be taken from me tomorrow but God is still on his throne.
The importance of story has helped me see this. Watch Gandalf in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and see the parallel to Revelation 19 and let your wonder of Jesus expand. Read Live Like A Narnian and see how the stories of Lewis’ Chronicles can help shape how you live for Jesus. Watch Breaking Bad and see the depths of sin and how it affects others. Read the Bible with new eyes and see what kind of story God has written from the creation, to the fall, to the incarnation, to the crucifixion, to the resurrection.
The story always wins.