About 8 years ago I starting sharing my story. Well, a part of it anyway. The part where I grew up in the church all proper, but constantly lived for myself. Always fulfilling my own desires and needs. Not ever doing anything that made a difference in this world, just pretty much causing lots of destruction on myself and others because of my own selfishness. Then, I was thrust (which I learned today was an inciting incident) into a life changing circumstance that hurled me to the bottom of a hellish pit where I had to cry out for the only one who could save me. That was followed be a series of miraculous events that brought about salvation and restoration for my entire family. It was a real life story that brought hope and encouragement when it was shared. So by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit doors opened for me to share. God had giving me a voice, a pulpit, people who needed hope for a failing marriage. Women who needed to know there is forgiveness and grace no matter what horrible thing they may have done. It was a story of redemption. It was a love story.
And then I failed.
I stepped back into my old role. My old character.
Maybe sometimes when you've played a particular role so long, it's all you know how to play.
It can be hard to learn a new role. To play a different part.
I think about certain actors or actresses in movies who always play the same kinds of roles.
It's what they know. It's what they are good at.
I know that when I began to get opportunities to share my testimony of redemption with others I became fascinated with story. As I would sit and outline my talks, and rehearse my speech in front of the bathroom mirror, I started getting a glimpse of story structure to my life. That there was some kind of pattern or theme. I didn't completely understand, but I knew that there was something special about the story I was telling. I knew there was a reason Jesus always taught in stories. I knew that somehow all of our lives are made up of stories and we all have roles to play and story is written on the very DNA of our hearts. So I've pondered the idea of story a lot. And much of my life, I haven't lived a very good one. And, honestly I haven't played the best role. My character has been a bit WACKED out.
Ever so often I take a day or two and read a book cover to cover. It can't happen often because when I spend 36 hours reading a book, that's ALL I do. I cease eating, sleeping, bathing, anything that is required of life and throw myself into the book. The past two days I read an amazing book, that penetrated my heart and made me deeply contemplate story. My life as a story. If I am living a good story, and how I can live a better one. I just want to hash out a few thoughts on here about what I learned on applying the principles of story to my life.
The book I read was, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." By Donald Miller.
I learned that "story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. "
That "The point of life is the same as the point of story. The point of life is character transformation." The whole point of a story is the character arc, the change.
I learned that a protagonist is the main character of a story and an antagonist is one who actively opposes someone, an adversary.
I learned that an inciting incident is the thing that thrusts you, launches (if you will) you into the story, into the conflict, the very thing that transforms you.
Here are some pieces of the book that made me deeply consider where I'm at in my own story and what kind of story that I'm telling with my life.
Don was telling a story about hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and the excruciating pain of it. Then he added this beautiful piece. " The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters, then if we'd showed up at the ending an easier way."
Sometimes I wonder if the pain and wounds of a marriage that has been brutally broken by infidelity and addiction will ever cease. And then I read something like this. The pain makes the marriage more beautiful. The story we are living is transforming our characters. And that's the point, character change.
"Your story gives you your character. We are living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories."
I remember at six seeing pornographic images for the first time. Those images awakened a very distorted view of myself at such an impressionable age. I began acting out those behaviors in real life. playing that role. Because I thought that was what I was suppose to do. And it formed my character over the years. I was not living a very good story. I was not playing the role I was made for. I had chosen another story. The story that had been made available to me.
"The point of the story is never about the ending, it's about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle."
I'm tired of the middle. It's painful. I'm sick of the guilt and shame. Sometimes I honestly want to give up. I want to walk away. I wonder if I will ever just get it right. I had thought that my story had reached redemption. My marriage had been destroyed by unfaithfulness, an unplanned pregnancy outside of marriage landed me with the hard decision to choose life. Every relationship in my life was broken. Our lives were turned towards God, salvation was received, we were walking in the truth, serving the Lord, we came full circle, telling the story of redemption with our lives, and then we failed. And our story ceased to be shared. And I'm tired of the hard work of the middle. Evidently there was more molding to be done.
"You have to take your character to the place where he just can't take it anymore. Writing a story is not about making your peaceful fantasies come true, the whole point is the character arc. You didn't think joy could change a person did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But, it's conflict that changes a person."
I was telling a story of redemption with my life. I still am. It is the failure, the pain, the conflict that is continuing to transform my character.
" Every conflict no matter how hard comes back to bless the protagonist, if he will face his fate with courage. There is no conflict man can endure that will not produce a blessing."
So I pose the question to myself, could it be that my stumble, my falling flat on my face again, my inability to get it right multiple times be my inciting incident that has launched me into a far better story? I will choose for it to be. I will choose a better role. Because I am a character who wants something and will overcome conflict to get it.
" It's a good calling to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder."
I highly recommend "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." By Don Miller. It is an exceptional read.
Here's to a better story.