Story and Just do It.

I live my life as a story. This is not a unique way to live. In fact, I would guess that every human being does too. We all are born with an inherent desire for meaning and connection. This is reinforced by human society which always points us towards the imposition of meaning onto any event. There is a logical fallacy that arises directly from this impulse, “Post hoc ergo propter hoc.” In plain English, “This came after that, therefore this caused that.” We immediately draw conclusions based on the sensory data with which we are presented. We write stories in our minds about what must have happened to cause the events that we experience. When we talk about our lives, we have an order to events and a commentary (internal or external) that connects us from where we have been to where we are. One of the most terrifying experiences is losing that connection, wondering, “How did I get here?” Movies like the Breakfast Club emphasise this aspect of defining our identity. The characters spend their Saturday in detention attempting to discover who they are through the stories they tell about their lives.

This is the power of being human. The power to tell a story so well that it becomes true, the power to engage another person and transmit a piece of your cognitive reality into the mental consciousness of the other, the power to transform events into comedy or tragedy by the context of interlocking ideas drawing real or imaginary connections. There is an immense responsibility as human persons to bestow meaning onto a world that can so often appear random and purposeless or even cruel and depraved. In our own lives we constantly play a narrative the contextualize our actions. One person gets up early in the morning and goes to the gym and thinks, “I love pushing myself to the limits of my physical potential and I love the way working out makes me feel more energized and positive about my day” Another person goes to the gym thinking, “If I work out hard enough and often enough, I will be able to stand in front of the mirror without being disgusted,” or “If I don’t go the gym, I will feel ugly and unproductive for the rest of the day.”
These two examples are over-simplified, but they come from the story each person tells about their lives.
Too often in the “digital” age we are experiencing others through the stories they attempt to tell about themselves. We don’t encounter people, but their images and words meant to portray a certain idea and provoke a specific reaction. Even worse, we only encounter a character in the TV show we binge watch for three days. We are immersed in stories that are shadows of reality. We watch friends playing a board game and making fun of each other or people dating and attempting to connect romantically or applying themselves and beginning businesses or pursuing their dreams. These stories are powerful images because they are echoes of the lives we could, or even should be leading. We live the lives of others from a couch instead of experiencing our lives and creating our stories. Of course our stories about ourselves tend to get confused or mired down in a war of comparisons! We are constantly engaged by other people’s make-believe.
Stories have the power to change the world. Books, movies, TV, theater, images, music, and art are all mediums for the most important and human work being done on the planet. We should be plugged in to the excellent stories that are being told around us, but we should also unplug and live our own stories. Content saturation produces a false feeling of accomplishment, but take a walk in the woods on a brisk winter day and you will immediately begin to quiet your soul and reconnect with your agency. In fact, “agency” is the key to this concept. When you begin to lose your ability to act on the world and affect your story, or when you become too complacent with the half-worlds of portrayed in media to seek change in your own reality, that is when we lose our ability to be the story makers we are meant to be.
There is nothing more insidious than the 9 to 5 job that you escape from by coming home, sitting on the couch with your wine and watching Netflix. This is often accepted as the appropriate way of living our lives. We become the secondary characters in the story of our company or our city or America. We are meant to be focal points of meaning and beauty. This can be done in simple ways. Get together with some friends to have coffee and talk and laugh. Write that blog post that you started and ditched out of fear or busyness or slothfulness or apathy. Go to church on Sunday instead of catching the satelite stream from your home or listening to the podcast in your car. Join a charity or small group or community sport league. Nike has a brilliant slogan that never ceases to engage my theological cogs: Just do it.
Maybe I am ringing an old bell that has been sounded in alarm for years in movies like Fight Club or Office Space or The Matrix, but then why are there still so many people living in a shadowy existence of escapism and apathy or fear and facebook stalking? There is a story out there. There is a story just for you. God is inviting you to co-author it. And your story, it will be apart of the redemption of all-creation. Step one is to get out there and just do it.

Parable of the Wise Man and God’s Plan

 One day in the years before Christ birth God decided to ask the wisest man on earth’s opinion of his plan of redemption. For the sake of this story we shall refer to this wise man as Everyman. So Everyman sat down with God and God began laying out his plan. He would send his only Son to the Israelites. Immediately, the Everyman broke in, “Not the Israelites! The ones who killed your prophets, who stoned your messengers, the stubborn and rebellious people who rejected your revelation no matter how many miracles you did for them?? They are a small and backwards people. They are mere vassals of the Romans Empire and have been conquered by every major empire in the past centuries. Why them?” God smiled and said, “That’s the beauty of it. I chose them regardless of their status in the world, regardless of even their obedience to me. I want the world to know that I am a God who loves unconditionally. In worldly weakness I am strong.” He then proceeded to tell Everyman whom He had chosen to bear his child. Everyman couldn’t believe his ears, “Ok so not only are you sending Him to a lowly people but to a peasant woman who is betrothed to a carpenter? She will be stoned for adultery! Even if she isn’t, she will be an outcast in the mind of anyone who knows her. And sending Him as a baby?! Your son could die of the stress of childbirth. He would be utterly vulnerable and probably without a father once this Joseph guy finds out Mary is pregnant. You should send him full-grown into the house of Herod or the high priest with angels announcing Him to the people of importance so they may welcome Him in power!” God chuckled and replied, “In weakness I am strong. I will indeed announce His birth with angels, but it shall be announced to shepherds on a hillside and an old priest who has been waiting for Him. And for those who have eyes to see, my star shall shine in the sky and lead any who seek that they may find His birthplace. As for Joseph, I shall invite him to participate in my plan and he shall have the choice to put aside his hurt pride and accept Mary in spite of everyone’s disapproval. Mary shall also have a choice in this, my plans always come with invitation. As for surviving childbirth, He shall be born in a manger and the true danger shall be after He is born as the powers of this world seek to put out the Light of the world.” He then proceeded to tell of His son’s ministry, inaugurated by the baptism of John. Everyman was confused, “Why would He need a baptism of repentance if He is going to be perfect? Won’t the pharisees and all the people see Him as a sinner then?” God replied, “My son is the new Adam and He will participate in the repentance of sin for the world. There is no action too humble for Him. He willingly accepts the baptism as an enactment of the story of human redemption and rebirth. I shall speak over Him their and announce Him as my beloved son. This will not be for His benefit, for I will have been teaching Him from His youth about the mystery of His incarnation. This I will say for the people listening, someday they shall know that any who accept my son become sons and daughters of mine.” “Wait,” Everyman said,”He won’t even be born with the knowledge and power that is His birthright?!” “No, He will empty Himself and take on the limitations of man. He will be a child in truth and will learn from the Torah and his parents and from Me as He grows in wisdom and stature and favor with Me and man. And after His baptism He will be tempted and tested in the truths He has learned. The Accuser shall come to Him and question His identity and My identity and He shall have to choose My promises and teachings over the lies of the Accuser. He shall feel a hunger for Me in that time but I shall feel far away to Him and only after this time of testing shall My angels come and minister to Him.” Everyman considered what he heard and was silent for a while. Then he said, “So your son could embrace the Accuser? He could reject you and follow the lies?” “Yes,” God replied. “I don’t understand,” said Everyman. “Ah, the beginning of wisdom,” and God began to tell of His son’s ministry. “Why fishermen? Why a tax collector? Why not any pharisees or priests?” “The hungry and the sick are open to Me, the proud I despise. Some religious leaders will follow him but none shall be in His twelve. If He came and gathered the religious leaders as His select few, then the people would not believe Him when He said He came for the sinners and the broken. The religious elite of Israel reject Me in pursuit of My own laws. How difficult it will be for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Finally, God began to tell of His son’s death. Everyman responded at first with indignation, “I thought you were bringing Your kingdom into this world! You have subverted all that this world teaches as wisdom, now Your son (with whom You are well pleased) should rise up with His followers and overthrow the oppressive kingdoms of this world. He claims to come to set the captives free, why doesn’t He use the fervor and power He has to do so?” “So, you think He should spend His whole life and ministry subverting the world’s ways only to use its way of violence to establish the Kingdom of Peace? The contradiction would be too horrible to imagine. No, My kingdom is not of this world. He shall die. Through His death shall be the fulfillment of all of Scripture. His wounds shall cleanse, He shall bear the iniquities of them all. He shall give Himself over to the powers and ways of the Accuser and, by becoming the scapegoat, the Lamb shall conquer all. He shall take their hate and accusation and they shall look to Him and be saved from it.” Everyman wept. “This is not the end of the story though, Everyman. On the third day, I shall raise Him from the dead. I shall establish My kingdom through the risen life of My son. Those eleven who are left of His chosen few and the women who loved Him shall change the world. No doubt you wonder why He wouldn’t just go about in His risen form and continue in leading those few? My plan is bigger than that. I want My people to establish My kingdom in My power and by My Spirit. They shall make all things new. They shall raise the dead and overthrow the principalities and powers. In their weakness, even in their deaths, the world will be healed and restored. It shall seem to them at times as ridiculous and foolish as My plans do to you, but I have entered into their world as a man and I know their suffering and they shall be more than conquerors through Me. Do not despair, Everyman, ever. All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. And soon, the end shall come and the new heaven and new Earth shall be established. My bride shall be presented before me blameless and in that day all striving shall cease. There will be no more pain, but faith, hope and love and joy unceasing. This I have promised and this shall be.”