If I asked you to mention a place full of dreams, story and magic, what place would come to mind? A tropical beach? Paris? The Apple store? Disney World?
I recently read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and it got me thinking about Story. The book talks about the elements of Story – what makes a good story. If your life were a movie, would it be a good one? You can read more of my thoughts on this book here (or read Donald Miller’s thoughts here and here). Currently, I’m reading A New Way to Be Human by Charlie Peacock. It also talks about Story. Charlie talks about the God-human story. God communicates to us through His Word and His Work. Our story doesn’t begin at birth. When we are born, we are entering a story already in progress – the story of God and Adam and Eve and Abraham and Noah and David and Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are part of this God-human story and the way we live our lives either attracts others to this Story or it doesn’t. We should be telling others the God-human story through our word and through our work – not as a PART of our life but as the WHOLE of it.
Think about that word “story”. When you read a good book or watch a good movie what is it about the story that attracts you? If you tell a story about something that happened in your life, what makes the story worth telling? You probably aren’t going to call your friends to tell them a story about how you ate some cereal or vacuumed your house. A story worth telling has meaning, excitement, suspense, tragedy – it’s something memorable. It’s a story of dreams and magic!
Is this the way the world sees the church (or the Christian life in general) – as a place full of dreams, story and magic?
Our family is planning a trip to Disney later this year. We’re pretty excited about it since none of us have ever been to Disney. But, I don’t think we’re nearly as excited as the other family we’re going with. They’ve been to Disney like 15 times and are literally giddy with excitement whenever they talk about it. They loaned us a Disney planning DVD and I watched it this morning. The three words I heard most were “dream”, “story” and “magic”. After watching this DVD, not only am I more educated about Disney, but I’m quickly approaching giddiness as I think about all the wonderful, amazing, memorable things we will experience.
The people at Disney get it. They know that people aren’t going to be attracted to a ho-hum, run of the mill experience. They know that dreams, story and magic are the stuff of life that people crave. And they don’t just throw it into the marketing (the “words” of Disney), they integrate dreams, story and magic into EVERY tiny little aspect of EVERY hotel, park, store, restaurant – anywhere you may set foot on their property was intentionally created to be full of dreams, story and magic (this would be the “work”). Why do you think our friends are more excited about the Disney trip than we are? Probably because they’ve actually experienced first hand the dreams, story and magic that happens there. They know it’s the “most magical place on earth” because they’ve actually been there, they’ve seen and heard with their own eyes and ears. They see themselves as part of the Disney Story.
Why do Christians think that living a ho-hum, run of the mill life with a little church thrown in on Sunday’s is the way we’re meant to do life? I’m not saying we need to fabricate a fun story to con people into coming to church. I’m saying we need to LIVE out there in the world recognizing that we are part of a much bigger story – THE Story. We need to let our word and our work be real and genuine and full of God’s love so that those who do not know the Story can see it clearly when they read our lives. A condensed version of the Story is not the true Story. To say with your words that you are a Christian and you want someone else to be a Christian too isn’t enough. You have to follow Jesus in the way you live as well – words are empty and meaningless if a person’s work is contradictory. Why are Christians not more excited about the God-human Story than we are about any other story?
After all, it may be the Story full of more dreams and magic than any other…
God created time, water, atmosphere, birds, butterflies and man (after His own image). He sees and knows all – from beginning to end. He is just and pure and holy. He loves fiercely – so much so that His own Son was sent to die for our wickedness so that we have an opportunity to know Him and to be in a relationship with Him again. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry and clothes the poor. Yes, sometimes He brings tragedy into our lives – but He is still the same God after the tragedy as He was before it! We are all part of His Story. He created me specifically for this portion of His Story! How awesome is that! I (insignificant and unimportant as I am) am part of God’s Story! That’s pretty magical.
We find it so easy to tell a story of dreams and magic to influence others in what kind of computer to buy or which football team to cheer for or what movie is good or which restaurant has the best service. Yet, we often dilute the most important Story to one of boring rituals and traditions or a list of do’s and don’ts. We have forgotten (or were never taught ourselves) the dreams, story and magic of being a follower of Jesus. As a result, the story we tell with our lives looks cold and uninviting to the people reading it.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if followers of Jesus lived in such a way that caused other people to want to follow Jesus in His Story? What if we told God’s Story through our word and our work so that those reading it would see the dreams and magic of His Story? We have experienced first hand – seen and heard with our own eyes and ears – we should be giddy with excitement at being a part of God’s Story!