I am captivated by a good story. When I see a good movie, I could watch it time and time again, re living the story I just was a part of; likewise with a great book. There is something about us that desires to be part of great stories. We long for the reality that our life might actually be telling a great story. And yet, the majority of us don’t feel like we are. We get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, maybe read or watch a little TV, go to bed, then get up and do it all again. Try selling that movie script. The show Seinfeld is known for being an outrageously successful Television series in which nothing ever actually happens. If you followed the show, you may have found it funny but I doubt you ever wanted to be part of that story.
My favorite superhero is Batman, and some of, if not my most favorite movies, are Batman Begins and Batman: The Dark Knight. I remember leaving the theater in awe of the storytelling. Not just of a fictitious adaptation of a comic series, but in a character who was just a regular human being (just outrageously wealthy) who chose to live in a great story of bringing hope and justice to the world. Now granted, I know that gives insight into how nerdy I am however I tell people all the time that Batman is my favorite superhero because I could be him!
Now although the latter is not exactly true, great stories we can live and be a part of are far greater than those, which we cannot. We all want to be a part of a great story, not just watch from the sidelines. We all want to throw or catch the winning touchdown over watching it from the stands. We want to get the girl (or boy) not be the goofy comic relief friend. We want to be the one who is the game changer in the story, not simply a supporting role or an extra. I want to be Batman not Robin.
Now there are a lot of stories we can never live even though we want to; you will doubtfully ever be the princess rescued from the high tower nor will I ever be Batman (Sigh). However what if we are called into a greater story than we are living now, and we can actually live that story. We can be the hero or heroin.
You and I, and every single person on this earth was created not to be an extra, not to simply be a supporting role, but to be the lead. We are called to live great stories because we were created in the image of the one who defines Greatness (see Genesis 1-2). We are called to be part of an outrageous and subversive revolution of love, and justice, peace and patience, kindness and hope, in a world that is held captive by dark forces.
“Dark forces you say? I don’t believe it! I don’t buy into that evil nonsense!” We live in a world where multitudes die every day due to lack of clean water and food. Children loosing their parents to a virus that will likely one day take their life as well. War, famine, slavery, prostitution, hate, anger… Just because these things don’t run around in a red spandex leotard with pointy horns and a pitchfork doesn’t mean evil isn’t present in the reality we live in. The good news for you and me is that we have been called into battle, to be the heroes who stand up and fight, to be the victors.
Yet the Church has lost her ability to call people into this story. We have forgotten our own story. We often forget how to tell this story, forget how to invite people into it. Who wants to be called into a story of mediocrity, the status quo, rules, regulations, donations, boring sermons, and lack of adventure? That is what we often call people into as the Church but it is not the real story they and we, are called to live. We can blame it on the fact that we think people are too busy, or lazy, or just don’t get it. Or maybe we say, they are content with living a mediocre story, but none of these are true. The Church want’s us to be Batman, not Robin, and certainly not Alfred. (sorry to non-Batman fans!)
I ran the Chicago marathon for the fourth year about a month ago. In Chicago, 40,000 runners show up to go through and agonizing 26.2 miles of torture. The sweat and bleed and some can’t make it. 1,000,000 people line the streets to cheer them on. People show up early in the morning. The devote months of training and hurting their bodies into submission. And, Oh yeah, they pay lots of money to do so. But they do it anyway, in hopes of a medal, in hopes to say they finished something others have only dreamed of, they raised money, they saved lives, they inspired others.
It’s a perfect example of how most all of us will sacrifice most anything to live a great story.
We have got to regain the ability to tell the truth about the story we are calling others into! It is not safe, there is no guarantee you wont have to sacrifice a lot. It may mean you have to move into a smaller house or across the country. You may have to give time or readjust priorities. You may have to alter the trajectory of your career. But isn’t it worth it, in order to live a great story?
Perhaps my greatest fear in life is that when I am near the end, I will look back and say that I played it safe, that I had a few big hands but I folded because I was worried about losing it all. I fear that I will watch others play he lead i
n regaining the world, in changing history, and I will play the role of an extra, a space filler.
My favorite verse is 2 Timothy 4:7. As the Apostle Paul is about to die, he commissions a new young apprentice to take hold of his story. Paul says this of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Paul had it made before he encountered Jesus, before he was called into a great story. Paul was a leader, he was respected, and he was honored. He was brilliant and had a great job. He had a lot of upward mobility. Paul was doing just fine. Then Jesus found him, and Paul was almost killed numerous times, he was jailed and beaten, temporarily blinded and mocked. His life, by the standards of the public of his day, was wasted. And yet it was because of what happened after Jesus called Paul into a great story, not what happened before, that Paul changed the world.
The Church must regain its ability to call the world into the dangerous revolution of love that is taking place right now. I believe most people will sacrifice anything to be part of the greatest story ever told… we just need to remember how to tell it.