Penning a drama

Posted: February 29, 2008 in Church, Perspective

I think one of the most random courses I ever took in college was a creative writing course.  I say “random,” because I was a psychology major.  An English class was a requirement for graduation, but not part of my career track.  However – to my surprise, it was one of the best courses I took in college. 

We had to author our own short stories.  We had to come up with the characters, the plot, the climax – all the elements to make a story great.  I won’t bore you with any of my stories, but it was interesting having to sit down and create (1) characters (with distinct personalities and their own “baggage”), (2) a plot where the tension between characters increased, (3) the climactic point where everything hits the fan, and (4) some sort of resolution (if you chose to include one at all).

Actually, this task is easier than you think, because drama comes so naturally for us in our real lives:

We are characters.  Every one of us has a distinct personality.  Every one of us is wired a certain way (think genetics).  But every one of us also carries around the pain/lessons/hopes/disappointments/expectations of our lives up to this point.   We walk into every situation carrying this stuff with us.  This life-baggage shapes what we think, or expect, from people.  It even shapes whom we choose to interact with.

We live the plot.  We write the drama.  We create the tension.  All it takes is for someone to disappoint us (not live up to our expectations) and the drama begins.  Or all it takes is to make a choice we know we shouldn’t make and the drama begins.  Sure, life can throw tragedy at us that is not of our own doing, but I think much of the time we create the drama ourselves.

We create the climax.  If you stay in a state of tension with those around you long enough (by not resolving conflicts, not being fair in our expectations, even drowning in our pains/depression), eventually things explode. 

 Resolution? If we’re lucky, we can recover from this explosion with our relationships intact (or even better from the experience), but usually these moments only further shape our personality into something even more “dramatic.”  The pain runs deeper, the expectations become increasingly unfair, and – when consumed by the drama – we may even begin wearing the ‘stigma’ of being a drama queen or king.

Sure, drama is exciting on paper (or in the theater), but in our real lives, it seems the definition of drama is really more one of tragedy – living with the consequences of bad choices and broken relationships – than excitement.  What really troubles me is how rampant this “tragic drama” is among people calling themselves Christ-followers.  Our churches can be some of the greatest cesspoools of tension and personality conflicts on the planet.  People who proclaim salvation by grace and a desire to “love their neighbor as themselves” can be some of the meanest, hypocritical, hateful, and self-centered people around.

How does this happen?  Rather than let GOD begin penning the story of our lives, we still hold the pen in our hands and try to write our own stories.  Rather than forgive people who wound us, we harbor resentment.  Rather than make good choices according to God’s word, we make incredibly stupid decisions.  Rather than view people as fellow children of God, we harbor prejudices and unfair expectations.  Rather than grow our relationships through love and self-sacrifice, we impose impossible-to-meet demands on people and show little patience with them.  Rather than continually try to better ourselves through grace (repenting of sin, overcoming bad habits, even overcoming the limitations of our personalities), we stagnate – comfortable wherever we are.  Rather than find courage, we recoil in fear from the challenges of life.

Drama – tragic drama – ensues, because we would rather author our own stories than let God chart our paths for us, even when our own stories unfold as chapter after chapter of tragedy.  Imagine how much tragic drama could be avoided if we lived within a community that actually lived according God’s plan instead of its own.

Our lives would certainly not become drama-free.  Bad things could still happen to us.  However, by living in God’s plan in a close relationship with Him we would be better equipped to deal with things when they happen.  Relationships still would not be perfect, but we’d be letting God guide us when it comes to developing communities of love, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice.

God rewrites our character.  As his grace and His Spirit works in us, we change.  We become no longer content with who we are.  We want to change.  We want to be better people.  Our lives begin to line up with his will and his word.  Jeremiah 31:33:  I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

The plot is epic.  The drama of tragedy is displaced with a drama of amazing grace – the story of our lives being re-written, our image being restored, our purpose becoming intertwined with his.  Basically, we get to play a part in the bigger, ongoing story of God’s love, grace, and redemption in this world.  Think about it:  We play a part in the bigger story of a work God began with creation and will continue long after we are gone.  Hebrews 12:2 refers to Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Why would we want to exchange the life that the author of our salvation wants to pen for us for our own, meaningless stories?

Making the bestseller list.  When we come to Christ, there is brokenness, then joy.  When we see others come to Christ, there is joy.  When we see God enable someone to overcome an addiction, fix a broken relationship, or do something crazy like plant a church (see:  Crosspoint),  we are watching God write the story.  There is something magnetic about that.  There is energy.  People are drawn to it.  Acts 2:7 states people were “utterly amazed” when they saw God’s Spirit working in the lives of the disciples, and 3,000 submitted their lives to God’s authorship that day.

Who’s writing your story?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1-2.

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