Good stories capture our attention and speak to us. Perhaps they make us laugh or cry or both. They make us discontent and inspire us to want better. Sometimes they inform us of deep issues in our world and give us a glimpse of different points of view. No matter what, stories are a part of our life and the great stories stay with us from generation to generation.
Good stories have a hero, a guide, and a villain. The hero is presented with a challenge that will be life altering. A guide, in some form, is introduced to the hero and of course, there is always the villain who wants to prevent the hero from succeeding. Our life can be like this. Each one of us face life challenges in some form or another. We search for guides (our parents, mentors, friends, self-help books) and we inevitably have the villain (the bully – we all have those, our circumstances, our boss, our spouse, politicians, the neighbor’s dog) who wants to prevent us from reaching our goals. And so we struggle on in life, heroes with endless cycles of stories. When we succeed, we see ourselves as great heroes who deserve the benefits that come with this success because, after all, we’ve earned our good fortune. Or we see ourselves as misfits in the story when good fortune does not favor us and we don’t achieve all, or some, of the success our world esteems worthy. And so we daily strive for the former and try and avoid the latter and our life is valued on the scales of current culture.
Our hard work and perseverance pays off – sometimes. Other times – nothing! Most successful people who are honest will tell you that, yes, they worked hard and honed their skill, but mostly their great success is as a result of some fortunate moment that came their way. A door that opened at just the right time that led them to this successful place. If that door opened for someone else, they would not be where they are, regardless of their hard work. They acknowledge that there is a greater force that got them where they are.
As I have grown older and as I have leaned closer to the heart of God, I have come to learn that we are not the heroes of our story. Jesus is the hero of the story and we have but supporting roles. Our life tells his love story.
Regardless of what our current culture values as success or deems as failure, there is a constant that we can look to that will guide our life to tell of his love. When we can, like Paul the Apostle, say that we have learned to be content in whatever circumstances – in need and in plenty – we are closer to letting the true hero tell his story. Our life is entirely through Christ who gives us the strength. The doors that open and bring us good fortune are opened by him. Yes our skill and persistence and good decisions are sometimes required, but he is the one who gives us that ability in the first place, so that he can tell his story of love through us. We are usurping his role when we take the credit through our words or through the way we treat others. O, how we need to recognize that we, and those around us, are but the channel of Christ’s blessing. We are no more worthy or less worthy than the person next to us.
When we struggle and the doors do not open for us, and yet we exult the Lord of our salvation – that too is Christ telling his story of love through us. The temptation is there to blame our struggles on our personal villains – those people who make our life difficult. Or we condemn ourselves, thinking we are not worthy. But, we are taught in scripture that our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with powers of darkness that always lead us to our own pitiful story and away from the greatest love story of all time.
When we overcome the temptation to make ourselves the hero of the story, and we revel in our supporting role, our life becomes all the more meaningful, not less so.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20