This devotional is based on our thoughts in preparing the synopsis for the Storyteller album. If you didn’t know that we write synopses… synopsises… synopsi?? …for our albums, be sure to read the album covers.
We live in a world in which words are ever more malleable, controversial, shallow, and sordid. So when we, as creatures shaped by this world, read scriptures about God “upholding the universe by the word of his power;” when we hear “in the beginning was the Word;” and when we understand that God is the “author and finisher” of the faith, it comes as a shock to realize that words, narrative, and the culmination of a storyline, far from being merely valuable as entertainment, are actually paramount to understanding not only biblical purposes, but ultimately, life itself.
I think the idea of God as Author is foundational to what the Bible reveals to us about the divine. I mean, what do you call an entity who is outside the narrative and creating every aspect of it? An author. The writer exists even if the story is never penned. While human authors can only dabble with the ink of a pen or the typing on a computer screen to create their worlds, God wrote upon time, space and matter. Speaking effortless words, sparking the flame of life and exploding every molecule into its preordained place, the stage was set and the Narrator began to speak to and through the “holy men of God.”
Now here’s something that takes it from the amazing to the fantastical: the Author, the storyteller of storytellers wrote himself into the plot. The Director made a cameo in the beginning walking with Adam and Eve in the garden. He visited his friend Abraham. He burned in a bush. He guided his people through the wilderness. Joshua bowed before him before a great battle. Hints about him were whispered in prophesies hundreds of times up until the grand unveiling when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He is not only the poet, but what the poem is about. He is not only the author, but the central plot point. He is not only the song, but the reason for music.
“God comes down, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and draws to himself all of the sin and the shame, the rebellion and the hate, the sickness and the death, and swallows it whole. And he swallows it by letting it swallow him. The Dragon is crushed in the crushing of the Prince of Peace.”
~ Joe Rigney
This is why we should have indefatigable hope. It’s like when you are ten minutes into watching a blockbuster movie and you have already identified the indispensable heroes who will triumph in the end. You know that no matter what happens they will be victorious. There is that Biblical meaning of hope: absolute assurance. But knowing that all will be well does not mean that you do not gasp in horror at the seemingly unbearable circumstances the heroes are put through or cry at the unspeakable heartaches they will bear. The best storytelling works are unpredictably predictable: all will be well in the end, but there's a bunch of cliffhangers before you get there. Frodo will get the Ring to the destructive fires of Mount Doom, but when he’s finally at the peak, he himself falls prey to the Ring’s influence. Who saw that coming? Aslan will be victorious in the fight against the White Witch… but how can he be when he dies in exchange for Edmund’s life? Then you have Bugs Bunny, in the pan, in the oven, with Yosemite Sam fixing to light the match… I could go on.
I think Christian art suffers greatly when we give our characters mundane annoyances and predictable Hallmark channel victories. Jehovah is a writer of the grand sweeping narrative, the perilous odyssey, the grueling battle, the slog through the slough of despond, the arduous quest, the heroic epic, the hazardous conquest and the wounded warrior narrowly escaping death and improbably vanquishing his foes in the last moment. Christ himself did not step into the story as untouchable God, but as a man. Not just a man, but the lowest, the most helpless of the low. He came to a third world, conquered country. He came as a baby, born to impoverished teenagers who would shortly become refugees. Now there's drama for you.
And here we are, written into this epic story. The 139th Psalm tells us that our days have been recorded in a book before we were even born and in Scripture's finale, we read that our names and all our works are written down. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that we are God's poiema. His poem. His work of art. His masterpiece.
Just as characters in a story do not comprehend or many times may be completely ignorant of the details that the narrator is speaking to the reader, so we often see our emotional agony, family dramas, disabilities and they all feel bleak and pointless from our limited vantage point. Our hope, our confidence, is that we only know a fraction of the plot points of our own lives. Our hope is that the Author is bringing it together into a coherent and meaningful whole. Praise God, we have the last chapter given to us as inextinguishable fuel for this confidence.
These story song selections are meant to lay bare the experiences of life. Funny and dark; sweet and bitter; sad and hopeful; lost and found. As we face the arrival of virtual worlds, in which people want to retreat into the space between their two ears to avoid the chaos around them, let Christians be the ones who remain active participants in this divine story. May we ever strive, in our supporting roles, to bring notoriety to the lead character and to call the unwitting extras on the global set to join the cast before the credits run. We await with eager expectation the final chapter. No more numbers on the page. No more chapters building to the culmination of all the loose plot lines. The glorious final cut: the red carpet event. Awards will be given and we will lay them at all at the feet of the cause of all causes, the Author Himself.
These songs are not just my story. They’re also your story. And ultimately, all of our stories, are His story.
We are His poiema.
Miles & Martha