My husband and I were laughing the other day about something that happened one Saturday morning a few years ago. He got up early and turned on the TV and when I walked into the room a little later, it dawned on me what he was watching. As soon as I saw it I declared earnestly that I was not going to get sucked in...but before I knew what had happened, I was. The movie was Rudy.
Those of you who have seen it felt something stir inside of you as soon as I mentioned the name, unless of course you don't have an emotional bone in your body. Ok, maybe I'm a softy but that movie really gets to me and I always end up crying in the end. When the guy who wanted to play football so badly for Notre Dame but ended up on the practice team getting the stuffing beat out of him every day and whose dad made fun of him for even trying but was in the stands at the last game of his senior year, finally got to go in for one last second play after the team shouts "Rudy...Rudy...Rudy", I lose it.
This time was no exception and we both looked at each other and half laughed and half cried as my son walked in and told us how pathetic we were. We kind of were, but why does this movie and so many like it (oh and Hallmark commercials too) have such an emotional effect on us? Because they all have the elements of a great story.
People's stories are important and they help us to emotionally connect to them. If they have a great story we connect and are inspired by them. I have seen this happen during Olympic coverage when we are presented with one inspiring story after another about athletes overcoming major obstacles that could have prevented them from competing. Their stories draws us in and help us to feel a part of their drive to earn the medal.
But, what if the story told in the movie Rudy was actually about a young man who had a dream, but when the going got tough, he decided the dream wasn't worth it and he gave up. That's probably a fairly common story but certainly not a great one. That one doesn't stand out or inspire and certainly wouldn't have been turned into a movie.
I have been studying about this idea of story recently and have realized the importance of looking at my life as a story. According to author and founder of Storyline , Donald Miller, most books and movies follow a similar pattern in their development:
A character...has a crisis or at least something they feel a need to change or improve...is introduced to an individual, a book, a new understanding, etc. that can give guidance...is given a plan...is called to act on the plan...needs to make a choice whether to implement the plan leading to either success or frustration.
When we can start to look at our life in this context, we can really see where we've been, where we are now, and where we would like to be. The stories that we most admire of course are the ones where the character of the story overcomes an obstacle by looking at it as an opportunity to grow in a new direction. In doing so, we can help create the story that we would like our lives to be.
So, what are the benefits of looking at our lives as a story?
1. We start to look at our lives as a process. If we really start to think this through, we see that throughout our lives we have gone through this plot structure many times. How we have responded to the different points of struggle though has varied. Sometimes we have used these times to grow as a person and some have left us to feel stuck and defeated. With success as our goal, we can use the process to propel us forward toward the end of the story we desire our lives to have.
2. We start to identify the purpose of our lives. As we start to look at our life as one big story, we naturally want to imagine how it will end. When we imagine what we would like people to say about us after we are gone, we start to identify what is truly important to us, how we would like to make a difference in the world, and what we would like to accomplish.
3. We become motivated to work through our own times of crisis or roadblocks. When we can see these times of opportunities to grow beyond ourselves, it changes how we handle them. It's during these times where we need to decide whether we will become bitter, angry, defeated or chronically stuck in an un-fulfilling pattern, or if we will use it as a springboard to something great that can benefit ourselves and those around us.
4. We can become a powerful testimony to the overall story of God. The Bible in itself is God's story. You can see the patterns of the script written that chronicles the various struggles and triumphs involving God and His relationship to His people. Those of us who have read the end, know that it ends well and that He accomplishes all that He had planned. God wants the same for our stories and He gives us the power needed to create good ones. For myself, I want to have the testimony of someone who has had some really tough times and even a few major crisis points, but have chosen to rely on the strength of God to get me not only through them but stronger in spite of them. It sure hasn't been easy and isn't over yet, but I can choose to press on for the sake of Christ and those who are watching.
In the book, Tell Me a Story, Scott McClelland writes, "If we're willing to piece together our stories and see the relationships between what happened then and what's happening now, we get to make choices about what happens next. What I mean is that we get to decide what to do with our anxiety, pain, trust issues, addictions, and so on--do we want to be at their beck and call forever or do we want to take them on? I can't say I hold the secret to overcoming any of those particular struggles, but I can say that sketching the story you want to tell going forward is the first step."
To learn more about this process, visit www.storylineblog.com