When the story of your life is told, what do you want to be written? Do you want your story to inspire courage in others? Do you want it to bring hope to those who follow after you? Or do you want to play it safe?
What story are you telling these days? Do you have a favorite? Your story could be a work story or a family story or an accident story. It could be a “I can’t believe my boss did this story” or a “You’ll never guess what my kid crammed in the DVD story” or a “My husband gave me a bathroom scale for my birthday story.” Believe it or not I’ve heard the bathroom scale for a birthday present story. What story are you telling these days?
Do you have a kid story or a work story or a family story? Just this last week I heard a “pregnant at age 50” story. Glad that’s not my story. Everyone has a story. I’m guessing that each of the stories we are telling right now have several elements in common.
Elements of a Story
If you are writing a story, here’s a list of five elements you must include (I got these from “The Five Essential Elements of a Great Story” by Archway Publishing):
- PROTAGONIST: The protagonist is the main character of a story. Also known as the hero, or the lead. That’s you. In your story, you are the hero.
- ANTAGONIST: This character is also known as the villain of the story or the lead’s opposition. Sometimes the villain is a person. Sometimes the villain is a life situation inflicted on the character. That villain can be named Darth Vader or Voldemort or your Ex. Sometimes it can even be named flu symptoms or budget cutbacks.
- AN INCITING ACTION: This is an event that sets the characters in motion.
- CONFLICT: Conflict by definition is some sort of turmoil—a challenge to overcome, a quest, mystery, or struggle. Conflict creates drama, and drama makes a reader want to read. Without conflict the reader is left with a scene where everything is just fine, and nobody is in trouble. Pretty boring. Essentially there are two types of conflict that make a great story:
- 1) Internal conflict that happens inside the characters’ heads and hearts.
- 2) External conflict comes from the outside.
- RESOLUTION: This is the end of the story. Sometimes the ending is happy. Sometimes, it’s not.
Whatever your story is, I can promise you that there is one common element. It’s conflict. There is a struggle. We don’t tell stories of the days when the car kept running soundly and when there were no issues at work or of the Christmas when the refrigerator kept running. The conflict is what makes a good story.
Each of us has a story, but even bigger than that we find ourselves in one great story. It’s the story of your life. What kind of story do you want your life to be? Do you want it to be boring and mundane? Do you want few battles and mostly sunny days? Of course you do. I want my life to be easy and smooth and comfortably boring. Who’s with me? But here’s the deal. You cannot have a great story without conflict. You cannot become a hero without fighting a battle. You cannot reach resolution without drama. There are a lot of names for this life conflict we are facing: dismissed, depressed, divorced, slipped disk, autism, ALS, cancer, raising teenagers. I could go on but after 8 words I’m already depressed.
If your life is going to be a great story, there has to be drama. There has to be conflict. That conflict that you hate so much is creating within you a story that could refine your life. It could even define your life.
The Waiting Game
The Christmas story is full of great stories and there is not a single one without conflict and drama. There is an unplanned pregnancy. There is the threat of heartbreak when the fiancee hears that his betrothed has been unfaithful. There is a couple devastated by years of infertility. There are murderous threats breathed against our heroes that cause them to flee the country. There is a death of a loved one followed by a widow loving 60 years alone. There is a man who spent a lifetime waiting for a promise from God that seemed like it never would come. This man’s name is Simeon:
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. –Luke 2:25-26
This is the story of Simeon’s life. Simeon had one job. It’s one of my least favorite jobs. Simeon’s job was to wait. We don’t really know all the details of his wait. It might have been years. Most likely it was decades. All we know for sure is that God told him he would see Messiah before he died and so Simeon had to wait it out. This was Simeon’s conflict. This was his drama. If you ask me, it’s one of the worst kinds of drama..waiting. How good are you at waiting?
- Waiting for a marriage to come back together
- Waiting to hear back from colleges you’ve applied at
- Waiting on a raise
- Waiting to see if your distant child will come back to you
- Waiting on test results and wondering if you will ever be healthy again
Is there anything worse than waiting? I want you to notice something about this passage. Did you notice how Simeon is described? He followed God. He is mentioned in scripture as righteous and devout. How many of us could be described like that? Yet he was given the life task of waiting. I guess that’s important for me to tell you because I want you to know that if you follow God it doesn’t mean life will be free and easy. Even the devoted get difficult tasks. Simeon spent his life waiting for the savior and now he’s here.
27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.—Luke 2:27-33
The Big Message
So what was Simeon waiting for? What was so important that God had Simeon, a righteous and devout man, doing nothing but waiting for years? Turns out Simeon had an important message to deliver:
34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”–Luke 2:21-35
There are a couple of lines that jump out at me in this passage. This child will cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. I think what he’s saying is that Jesus will divide. Some will be for him, some against. Some fans, some foes. There will be people who love him, but this hero will also have his share of antagonists. I think that’s primarily what Simeon is saying, but there is another way to take this simply based on my experience.
The Roller Coaster of Life
This is the same wording you would use to describe life as a roller coaster. I recently took a friend from Haiti on a roller coaster. He had never been on one before and had no idea what to expect. I think that’s when our roller coasters are the worst. When we don’t expect them. When we think that if we follow God life will be easy. That God will take away all the barriers to our success. I hate to tell you but that’s not the God I know.
When you follow Jesus, there will be falling and rising.
There will be success and failure. There will be victory and defeat. There will be drama and conflict. The second line I want you to see is this. Simeon says to Mary, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” This is what that statement would mean for Mary. Now if anyone had a claim life free, shouldn’t it be Mary? Look at all she’d been through at this point. Shouldn’t she be able to be left in peace for the rest of her life. But that’s not how it was going to be. Instead, she would fall in love with this little boy. She would watch him grow into this incredible man. Then that man would be ridiculed and beaten and then killed in front of her very eyes. There is no question that her soul would be pierce. And I hate to tell you, but that’s typically they way Jesus works. He has a way of piercing our soul.
When you follow Jesus, your heart will be pierced
Jesus has a way of pointing out our flaws. Showing where we are weak. He has a way of showing us how we are hurting ourselves and other people. He is okay with allowing difficulty into our lives that will bring drama and conflict but also growth and maturity.
Let me tell you something, if you don’t invite God into your life I cannot guarantee you a resolution. I can’t guarantee that your story of conflict and drama will become a life refining and defining story for you. But I will say this. Jesus came to bring you resolution. If you invite him in, this is what he offers you. He will first give you forgiveness. Then he will give you purpose. Here’s the crazy thing about Jesus. He is the only one who can take your conflict and drama that you wished was out of your life and use that conflict and drama to make you who you wanted to be.
God pierce my heart for what pierces your heart.