I love a good story. Like nothing else, a good story can cause hours to completely disappear and problems to fade into the background. I can get lost in world’s I’ve never been to and times I’ve not lived in. Stories are so appealing because they highlight the human struggle and they bring forth heroes and villains. Good stories give us the chance to hope and feel and bond with the characters. It’s so difficult to resist being pulled into a really well written or well told story. If we’re honest, it’s partly because most of us secretly want to be the hero of some epic tale. We’re drawn to that idea of being the central character who fights against the wrong and triumphs for the good.
I’ve found that because this is true it’s also easy to approach my life as if this is my story, my chance to be the hero. I am often tempted to view myself as the central character of my life’s story. After all, this life I live is ultimately about me, right? Isn’t that why it’s called my life? This false perception can also be perpetuated by the way we talk and the way we pray. We speak of Jesus saving us (which he does) and we pray asking him for what we want and need. These aren’t wrong, but they can tend to encourage us to continue making ourselves the main character of the story of our lives. We can begin to view Jesus as the guy who adds to our life, who rounds it out, rather than the one who is our life. As if Jesus takes our life which would be a 6 or 7 on its own and tips the scales bringing life up to a strong 9 or 10.
Thankfully, the gospel reminds us that this is simply not the case. The story of which we are a part is not our story it’s God’s. The story isn’t focused on what I do in these seventy or so years I am given. It’s not mainly about how I manage my decisions and opportunities and develop my skills. It’s not a story about the conflicts I face or the people I impact. The story—much to my ego’s dismay—is not about me.
I find my true place in God’s story by the saving grace of Jesus. I am given purpose and hope and joy because of Jesus. I am given life and direction and value, because of Jesus. This is his story playing out in the scenes of my life. Just consider Romans 5:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11
There is a grand story that spans all of human history and it is this story—God’s story—that makes sense out of everything in our lives. This story tells of God’s great and enduring love for a people who rebel; a people of sin. God created, humanity sins, and God redeems and re-creates.
Like any good story, God’s story contains all the necessary elements. There is conflict that comes in the form of sin and there is a climax that appears on the cross when Jesus dies for our sins and is resurrected three days later. Contrary to how I often think, the climax of my story doesn’t happen when I get that big break at work, or when I finally get recognition for my abilities. The climax of my life’s story isn’t my wedding day or retirement or the arrival of my first child. It’s not landing that dream job or some other noble pursuit. The climax of our story already took place over 2,000 years ago.
When Christ died for the ungodly; when God showed his love for us sinners; when we were justified by the blood of Christ on the cross and saved from the wrath of God—this is the climax of the story we now live. I was an enemy of God and was reconciled by the death of his Son. The story will never get better than this. Everything that happens now, no matter how significant and impactful, is resolution to the climax. We are living out what the climax of the story has made possible.