Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Just about the time you’re convinced that television is completely without redeeming qualities, it shows you how powerful well-chosen sounds and images can be. ABC’s Good Morning America does a weekend piece called “Y3W” for “Your Week in 3 Words.” Ordinary people use video cameras to capture their week in images and then choose three words (or groups of three words) to express it all. Behind the images play the haunting sounds of The Weepies’ “World Spins Madly On.” And it’s powerful and moving: a soldier in Iraq standing by a wall with a sign: “Happy B’Day Morgan;” a baby stumbling across a floor to waiting hands with the words “Her First Steps;” a hand with the words “Lost My Job” written on it, and when the hand is removed a “For Sale” sign in front of a house. Powerful.

It’s powerful because of the God-given capacity we humans have not merely to respond to life, but to reflect on it. Someone has called this “the flying fish perspective.” Like flying fish, we humans can leap out of our environment momentarily and gain some perspective, some sense of the whole, before we plunge back into the murky madness where everything looks and feels the same. Like flying fish we can’t do it very long, there’s swimming and eating and predator-avoiding that takes priority over perspective. But we can do it, and when we do, it’s powerful and provocative.

It’s the difference between viewing the events of our lives as a random collection of “little stories” that don’t go anywhere or mean anything (like the stories on the nightly news), and seeing them as “scenes” in a single story that has point and purpose and plot. As Christians, we refine this metaphor further by seeing our lives not just as scenes in a story, but as scenes in The Story, God’s story in which we are characters and our lives are scenes. History is His-Story. German theologians of another day had a big word for this: Heilsgeschichte, “salvation history.” But what they really meant is “The Story” God has been writing from the moment He called creation out of chaos and you and me from our mothers’ wombs.

It makes a difference how you see your life, whether or not you see the daily and weekly and yearly events of your life as mindless and pointless, or whether you see your life as having point and purpose and plot. It can get you through a tough week.

Take last week, for example. I buried a twenty-six year old mother of two who was killed in a head-on by a drunk driver. All week I kept saying to myself: “It makes no sense. What’s the point?” And then I remembered the flying fish and realized that I can draw no conclusions about the plot of The Story until God is finished with it. He’s an amazing “Author” Who gives His characters terrible freedom to do both awesome and awful things, like drive drunk and take lives, and yet is so creative that even this awful “plot twist” He can incorporate into the plot of The Story. He’s had experience, you know, at a place called Golgotha.

Oh yes. My Y3W? “Life is hard…God is good.”


FQS said...

What is winning? Is it scoring on your first play and then holding on until the game is over? Is it scoring seventy seven points while holding the other team to zero? Or is it playing to a 0 - 0 tie until you kick a field goal with 2 seconds left on the clock? The record book and the standings published in the morning paper only show that you won.
Is winning in life all that there is? Regardless of how the "video" looks. Is winning more important than how you played "your" game? If you sit on the bench until the last down and catch a touchdown pass in a scorless game, are you better than those who played the previous 59 minutes?
Who won? Did you win? Or did the team? Or did both win? What is winning???

Anonymous said...

fqs: What is winning? That's a great question! I have a younger brother who is 56, lives alone, chain smokes and is an avid online gamer. If he is not working or sleeping, he is "questing" alone or with others in cooperative play. He develops virtual characters, finds virtual gold and platinum, develops spells, makes weapons and furniture at a crafting table, forms new alliances and does things for the betterment of the guild. He would call that "winning". He is completely immersed in the game. But in real life, he has done nothing to improve himself. He has no love interests, no real friends, avoids anything religious. He wastes all of his time on something that won't matter in the end. When something unfortunate happens to him, he says, "Oh, well..." Sounds a little like Pastor Stacy's "Story of my Life" entry.

How do I win? I win daily battles by resisting temptation, studying the scriptures, overcoming harmful habits, discharging my duties to God, country, community, occupation and self. I win when the Master returns (or I go to Him) and He declares me a good and faithful servant.

Now THAT's winning!

Yours in Christ,