Tonight is the beginning of the end of the Harry Potter movies. People all over this continent are gathering at their local theaters at ungodly hours to see how the production studios capture the series’ end. Some will be dressed in the garb of their favorite characters while others will think they are too cool to partake in an adult version of dress-up (but secretly wishing their heart would allow for this childish fantasy). Many will call in sick for work tomorrow while others’ production output at work will resemble that of their body prostrate in bed. All for a story.
Why are people so engrossed with this story? Honestly, in this case, I have no idea. I have never seen, and probably never will see, the movies or read the books. Sometimes I tend to defy the cultural norm, even if it robs me of some perfectly healthy pleasure, for the sole purpose of not being like the others. Its a rather poor character flaw.
We DVR our weekly shows; we read the great texts and the beach classics; we watch documentaries about fast food; we wikipedia our favorite musicians for perspective; we feel the rhythm of poetry while picking it with a fine comb; and we watch nature explode for 30 minutes in a two and a half hour indie flick. Why?
Some way, some how, stories fill the soul at its deepest level. Each character played well, each plot developed adequately, each beat resounded draw us toward something and even into it, in a way. We live vicariously through the rising and falling action and the complications and resolutions. (Freytag anyone?)
We participate in these stories so easily and free flowing. They are our escape from the happenings of our mundane and, often times, frustrating life. They are good things we use to help cope from the harshness of the world.
But, do we participate in the stories of others? Do I?
Over the last few years, including now, the story I focused on was my own. Are the actions and scenes of my story reflecting Christ? Are they showing me as smart? Are they making me happy? Emotionally stable? Confident?
As I wrestle, with the help of others, through some doubts, frustrations, anxieties, etc., I seem to be back at this point: strive toward Christ, whatever the cost. Interestingly enough, the consequences of these actions will produce fruit (Jesus!), but also a sense pride (flesh). I can’t strive perfectly or purely. Praise God for the Holy Spirit and the work he can do use my acts to bring glory to the Father!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story not only stirs the soul to vicariously live through his actions of the first half of the 20th century but it moves the postmodern soul into parallel action. In striving for Christ, Bonhoeffer sacrifices his life for the salvation of the German Church that the 3rd Reich mutated into an engine for its own propaganda and good. His role in the fight for the Church consisted of lies and deceits, attempted assassinations, familial estrangement, as well as ultimately producing a “widow.” From Eric Metaxas’ incredible biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“[Bonhoeffer] knew that the consequences of his obedience were God’s business…’It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or is it both?…[God] certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. so one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us…At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgement on today and all its decisions. It is now in his hand (p.345).'”
When your story is one that strives after Christ, your joy (or lack thereof), your suffering (maybe ever constant), and your self-efficacy is dependent upon God and his judgement.
But there is more to our individual stories. We must define what it means to strive after Christ. I don’t know the answer to this fully. Oh how I wish I did! But this is what I do know: we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love others as our self (Matt. 22). The Jesus Creed. This is the heartbeat of striving after Christ — the theme of our story. The former includes cultivating all aspects of the Imago Dei principle while the later is the physical actualization of the former. Obedience to the Son unifies us with the Father (John 3) and obedience means following the Jesus Creed.
So, in essence, our stories need to include God’s story and others’ stories and do not worry about the consequence of our actions. If our story does not include those two, our story ends up like a bad Keanu Reeves or Vin Diesel flick that causes men to wish to be in one of the many remakes of Sweet Home Alabama.
I pray I (we) strive for Christ, no matter the perceived consequence, no matter the perceived cost. Our story for His glory.