The Point of The Story
I’ve heard it said that every good story is a story of redemption and that every story of redemption begins with a crisis. Often, the story leads with the main character making a poor choice or an error in judgment—an act of defiance, passion or despair. The situation probably includes sex, money or power. It may play out in abuse or neglect; in public or in private. Somehow life comes apart and our fallen nature is exposed once again. The sexiest part of many stories is this point where the main character fails.
There is something repulsively appealing in this early part of the story. It may be offensive to our sense of justice and we may react with anger at what we see as clearly wrong. But there is something about the failures of others that captures our attention and draws us in. TV, movies, books and the news media all count on this reality.
But an incident of failure is only the beginning of the story. It may be the part with the most spice and drama, but it only serves as a starting point—the first chapter of a book. Without it, the story would have no context. But by itself, the story is incomplete and the main character is hopelessly suspended in a mystery that demands resolution.
The power of the story is not in its dramatic beginning, but in the fascinating journey that is set in motion. Something within us longs for the story to move on. We wonder how the crisis will be resolved. What unexpected turns will it take? What villains will be introduced and who will rise as agents of grace? What demons will be confronted and what dragons slain? How will the main character be transformed as the story unfolds?
No story is static. The graphic details of the first chapter lead into a much longer story. The subsequent chapters reveal the complexities of life and the struggles encountered along the way. Nothing remains the same. The characters change. New themes are introduced. Each chapter brings a surprise.
The significance of a story is not in how it begins, but in how it ends. A story of redemption must begin with some failure or tragedy from which to be redeemed. Although our darker side may be captivated with the vulgar details of the starting point, something deep inside us searches for hope in the story that follows.
My own story is one of redemption. In the early chapters, there was plenty of failure and brokenness out of which to be redeemed. There were points of crisis and conflict that altered the course of my life. Years have past and my story now contains many chapters that chronicle the changes that have taken place in me. Themes of grace, mercy and forgiveness weave their way though a much larger narrative that now defines each of the daily vignettes.
I believe that the enemy of our soul would have us believe that failure is fatal—that it is impossible to recover from our mistakes. He would like to reduce our story to the first chapter of the book, as if that was all there was to be told. He would have us remain in the guilt and shame of the past.
By contrast, the lover of our soul would lead us deeper into the story and beyond our failures. Although the opening scenes of any story can never be erased, they can be transformed by the power of His redemption—new life in Jesus.
Where we choose to focus our attention makes all the difference. Either we end up with another sordid story of fallen humanity or we find, possibly, a fascinating account of redemption. What we choose to emphasize determines how we understand anyone’s story … especially our own.