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Thursday, March 24, 2005

everybody loves story

sorry that i haven't contributed much recently. i've been a busy bee and everytime i log on to create a post, it takes me so long to read everything that christian and molly have posted, that i then end up with no time to create a post of my own!!! just kidding. i'm just blaming them for my lack of insight and creativity and flat out desire to post anything lately. so here goes...

what is it about a good story that everyone loves? why was everyone wetting their pants anticipating each new lord of the rings or the matrix sequels to come out? why is that i can't wait for the next star wars despite the fact that i was so disappointed over the last two? (actually my disappointment was wrapped up in the crappy acting of the actor that played anakin!) the truth is that we love story (or at least i do) because of the ways my story connects. the best stories are the ones where the underdog (charles has a great post about this) rises out of his pathetic position.

the truth of the matter is that most of us are underdogs. we don't have these amazing lives where people want to write biographies about us. if someone did write a great story in which we were characters, chances are we'd be background people. the people that they cast in sports movies to sit in the stands, observing the main action of the drama play out. that's how i feel a lot of the time. i feel like i am just an observer watching a story unfold around me.

that's the beauty of the bible. it's really just a story book where seemingly ordinary people are cast in roles that are primarily background roles to the main actor on stage...God. these characters struggle with the same things that you and i do and they are mainly just observers of history unfolding in front of them. yet at the same time, they are major characters because God has chosen to reveal who he is through their stories. the bible is a very human book, but at the same time is God's very word. what a paradox.

isn't that amazing though? this really is what separates christianity from every other religion of the world. take islam, for example...the qar'an is a holy book to muslims because allah essentially handed it to muhammed. but the bible is much different. it comes to us using language, metaphor, and story that we can relate to and understand. it walks in our shoes while at the same time showing us a different way to see the world.

i have been studying the book of judges pretty intently lately for a class. the book basically tells the story of a period in israel's history that was extremely low. the great men of israel had died off and israel began to stray from God by worshipping other gods. since they were in covenant with God, he didn't like this one bit. furthermore, he had delivered them out of egypt when they were slaves. he had purchased them and made them his people and had driven out the nations from the promise land. he blessed them greatly by multiplying them, giving them land and resources, and protected them from their enemies but still they forgot what he had done and turned to other gods.

so god did what any father would do to his children - he punished them for their disobedience with the hope that they would repent. how did he do this? he allowed pagan nations to come in and oppress them. after a period of time, israel did come to its senses by crying out to God for deliverance. so god would raise up a judge to defeat the enemy and restore allegiance to God. once that judge died, israel would again forget god and turn to other gods. so God would give them into the hands of another oppressor. this cycle continues for hundreds of years.

then you get to a unique judge, samson. this story does not begin like the previous accounts where israel cries out for deliverance. israel is quite content in their oppressed situation, worshipping false gods. but God raises up samson anyway. he is born to ordinary parents. unlike the other judges before him he is not exactly portrayed as a righteous man. in fact, he could be the most self-centered character in the whole bible. samson doesn't exactly redeem israel from the hands of oppressors, but instead he stirs up discontentment in israel with their oppressors by antagonizing them and israel eventually is delivered.

the great thing about the story of samson is his parents. in fact, many people who have studied the book say that his mother is the central character. anyone who knows anything about the bible, especially the old testament, knows the place women had in that culture. there is an old prayer that a rabbi once prayed "thank you Lord that i was not born a gentile, a slave or a woman." it is significant that a woman plays such a key role (in fact several women play key roles in the book of judges). but the really odd thing is that samson's mom is never even named. she doesn't appear as a leading role. not only is she never named, but when we first meet her, she is barren (a symbol of God's cursing for israelites) when the angel of the Lord comes to her and tells her that she will give birth to a son who shall begin to save israel from its oppressors.

you see it's ordinary people who God uses. samson's mom reminds me of mary. she appears as an insignificant background character. but she gives birth to the man who would finish the work that samson started. samson was still just a man who even died trying to save israel. but once he died it was over. if jesus had died and stayed dead, it would have been over. he would have been just another judge. but he didn't stay dead. he overcame that we can too. not many things are definites in this life, except that we will all die. we are all afraid of that day. but the resurrection frees us from that fear.

many people accuse christianity of being just a crutch. i have to admit that in many ways it is. it's a crutch in the sense that we have no chance to overcome death without it. that's the message of the gospel...admit that you need a crutch and his name is jesus. believe that this crutch is sufficient for God's pleasure with you and that there is nothing you can do to achieve that pleasure on your own. that's it. there is no place in heaven for self-sufficient heros. instead, this story is cast with ordinary weak and needy people. people like you and me.


At 9:23 AM, March 24, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Great post, Ryan. Nice to have you back writing... ;-)


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