Saturday, August 20, 2011

Story People

I'm one of those either/or, black-and-white, all-or-nothing people. I'm not saying this is always a bad thing, but at this time in my life it's not the best way to find emotional, spiritual, and mental balance. Dismantling the faultily built areas of my internal structure requires a steady mind, not one given to extremes.

So, it helps me to think about life, and myself, in terms of stories. When you're thinking about stories, you can't deal in extremes. For example, the Calvinist/Arminian debate goes out the window, because who can really sit around quibbling about fate versus free will when both are so clearly in evidence?

This weekend I started musing over one way to categorize the various personalities involved in a story. Here are the categories, and how they bring clarity to various personal conundrums:

Me (a.k.a. protagonist). While it's true that God is telling one big story about the history of the universe - the super-story, if you will - it's not true that each of us is only a little piece in this big story. Each of our lives is a story with intrinsic meaning.

We are not the story tellers, but luckily, as any author will tell you, characters do take on lives of their own. In other words, although I'm not the one creating the story, I have a say in how it goes. I have free agency. I may not be able to choose all the circumstances of my life, but I can decide what to do with them. I can decide, for example, to walk to Europe. Of course, I will have to turn around once I'm in over my head in the Atlantic, but at least I drove all the way to the beach. I got somewhere.

God (a.k.a. the author). This is the guy who actually sets up the story. He decides, for example, what the setting looks like and who the people in it are, and He calls some of the shots. A good author kinda lets things go at that point, sees where the characters end up next. However, I've never read a truly good story where there wasn't some kind of miracle at the end, just where you thought things couldn't turn out right. I'd like to believe God steps into my life, too.

One thing characters can't do, because they're imaginary, is interact with their authors. So I have to be careful about identifying too much with this author/character analogy. I may be a character in a story, but I'm not a powerless, voiceless victim of the author's pen. I can talk to Him about the story, get His perspective on it, tell Him my perspective.

Other people (a.k.a. supporting characters). The most important thing, here, is not to get the other characters mixed up with the author. None of the other characters can rescue me in the ultimate sense. None of them is perfect, so none of my relationships with them will be perfect. Also, although each person is the protagonist of his own story, none of them is the protagonist of my story. My story is uniquely about me. I can't depend on or allow other people to define my story or make it happen.

But if I realize that the perfect, powerful Creator is a distinct person from the imperfect, yet important and valuable, creatures, then I can interact with each of them as appropriate and not demand the wrong things from the wrong people.

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