How do we find an author? If our story was written in book form, we would simply look on the back cover or the last page and we’d have it. The author bio. However, we don’t have a book. There isn’t even an e-book available. So, how can we find and get to know our author? Where do we begin?
Let us begin by looking at what we do know. Our story. Could it be that the author is revealed in the writing of a story? Surely this is true since all the elements of story come from the mind of the author. So it seems we must study our story to have any hope of finding and knowing the author. But how do we carry out this study if our story is not recorded? What do we have to go on? We have only our daily experiences and personal history.
So how do we dissect our story to reveal the creative genius that is its author? There are several key elements that go into a good story. First, there are the characters. There is always a main character. Is that me? Is that you? Somehow I doubt it. If you ask writers, they will tell you that there are protagonists and antagonists. Put in simpler terms, heroes and villains. Who is the hero or heroine of our story? Who is the villain? And of course, there are many more minor characters in stories. Given the vast number of people on our planet, it would seem our story contains many smaller characters. Perhaps we are one?
All stories have a setting. The setting is where a story takes place. The setting helps set the mood of the story and introduces constraints on the characters. Would texting in a medieval setting make sense? Nope. Wrong setting. So what is the setting of our story? It appears to be Earth in the 21st century. But maybe, like Neo in the Matrix or the Pevensies in the Chronicle of Narnia, we will find our story existing in another setting altogether. That could change everything.
Of course stories have plots. Plots are basically what happens in a story. If we agree that we are in a story and this story has an author, then there must be a plot. However, as characters in a story without a script, understanding the plot seems daunting. But isn’t that one of the questions we ask most often: “What should we do?”
And of course there is conflict. All stories contain conflict. You and I both know that our story most certainly does! This conflict is obvious, good versus evil. We may not all agree on the definitions of good and evil, but we know they exist, they are in conflict, and somehow we are caught in the middle.
And finally, there is the resolution. Good overcomes evil, the hero triumphs, the lovers are reunited, families and friendships are restored. While these are not the resolution of all stories, we certainly hope that they will be the resolution of ours. Isn’t that one of our greatest desires? Of course, but there is a problem. We don’t know the resolution of our story, do we? How would your life change if you knew the resolution of your story before its end? Would that change your view of our story? Your role? The author?
So where do we go from here? We go to our story …
What is the story you are living? I would propose that this is the most important question that we could answer. Why, you might ask? Because this is the place where all the other major questions of life find an answer – the questions that haunt us all the days of our lives. What is the meaning of life? Is there life after death? What is truth and what is its source? All these questions can only be answered if we understand the story in which we live. Hence the problem. Most of us are ill-equipped to answer even begin to understand our story. And, how can we? For if the truth be known, only the author of the story can provide that understanding. Unfortunately, we lack the insight to even name this author. Certainly the author is not one of us, for if it were, that person would surely write a much better and happier story than the one we face on a day-to-day basis. There would not be danger, poverty, or illness if we were the author. No, the author is not among us.
Perhaps, as some would have us believe, there is no author and thus no real story at all. Life is just a random selection of atoms thrown into a galactic mixing bowl where certain molecules bind together. Here events are just perplexing occurrences based on the interaction of these atoms. However, if this be the case, then the answers to the questions that haunt our lives are, themselves, meaningless. But we are forced to reject this authorless premise as the questions that haunt our lives are universal and speak to something transcendent that ties humanity together. No, surely there is more.
So, if there is an author and that author is not one of us, the author must be different. Before we can answer the haunting questions, we must understand the story. To understand the story, we must know the author. To know the author, we must discover the author. So there be it. Resolved. Our first step is to find the author.
And so we begin.
Several years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Life sucks and then you die.” Uplifting? Inspiring? Not quite. Years earlier, I had learned in school about a character named Macbeth who claimed, “Life … is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” If I asked you if you believed those statements, your answer would probably depend on your belief system. If you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew you would probably answer with a resounding “no,” while an atheist or agnostic might be more apt to consider them as possibilities. However, if we are truthful with ourselves, regardless of our proclamations, we would have to agree, we often live like that is exactly what we believe.
You see, there is something going on around us that looks very much like a play. There are characters that interact with each other and the conflict and drama is unavoidable. Some characters are winners, others are losers. Unfortunately, we can’t tell exactly what kind of play we are in simply by watching the characters around us. At various times it looks like comedy, drama, romance, satire and even at times like an adventure. But the story of mankind is none of these, it is, in fact, a tragedy. However, the tragedy is not that we fail to live up to our highest ideals or other’s expectations. It is not that the world around us is corrupt and dangerous. Nor is it the fact that we never even got close to the life we dreamed of as a child, teen, or young adult. No, the tragedy is that we have gotten used to it.
Just look around and what do you see? There are terrorists killing and maiming hundreds and thousands daily. There is corruption and greed at every level of government. There are millions of children that go to sleep hungry at night, even in the wealthiest countries.Or worse yet, when we do experience true joy and happiness, there is a part of us that refuses to indulge in it because we know it is fleeting; we will wake up to reality in the morning we tell ourselves.
Are we stuck? Is this how our story will play out? If so, then life really does suck and death will be a welcome relief. But no, what if what we see play out day-to-day is not part of the main plot line? What if the play is not about us? What if main plot has a hero? After all, every good story has a hero, right?
Yes, thank God, there is a hero. Like all heroes, this hero was forced to take a chance. And hero-chances usually demand the hero’s life – this one did. In our story, that chance required special-ops deep in enemy territory. An operation to bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and free prisoners from bondage. But, in a plot twist, the hero was not armed with the most ingenious and deadly of weapons. Our hero was a baby. God’s baby. A baby who has, as we speak, a place prepared for us and who is coming back to take us there. The baby who is no less than the God of the universe.
If we focus on our plot line, we forget. We think that this is all there is. We become used to this world. However, if we focus on our hero, we have hope. When I get home, I’ll be looking for the bumper sticker that says “Life’s awesome, then you live.”