Two days ago, I sat in the café/bookstore of a megachurch in Orange County, California, praying for inspiration to write this blog, when I discovered that I had “stumbled” upon their weekly corporate staff meeting. My heart fell. “Oh no, Lord!” I prayed. “You know I came here to gather my thoughts and come up with a brilliant blog idea. What are you doing?” I groaned as people poured into the room, creating a cacophony of voices surrounding and invading my space.
Moments later, one of the pastors stood at the mic and began to tell his story relating to a staff retreat they had experienced the previous week. One by one staff members came up to the mic with their particular point of view of what had taken place over the week. Most of their stories began something like this: “I wasn't sure what to expect, but here is how God worked a story in my life and the people God brought into my life this week.”
As the men and women came forward, I became fascinated with, what I learned later, was how this church had dubbed this time “Story Time.” It’s a weekly opportunity for staff to express the exciting things that are happening in their micro-cosmic worlds within the corporate whole. On this day, I heard a number of stories—one rife with tragedy, a couple of them causing snickers across the room, one or two filled with wide-eyed wonder —but each of them with a plot line where God had burdened the person in some way along the road and yet surprised and amazed them through it all.
Then I realized; any of those stories had the makings of an exciting novel whose end depended on how the characters viewed their individual milieu and allowed it to grow them and change them in miraculous ways. I wondered: how many of us view our lives as a story, an amazing tale of adventure that God’s weaving along the road of our lives?
Over the last several months as I have moved toward launching Light Out of Darkness, the concepts of story and journey have surfaced over and again. Each one of these ideas, as it relates to novel writing, deserves to be unpacked on its own and could fill an entire book. Together they provide the basis for every narrative that has ever been told—oral or written, fact or fiction, parable or literal, on screen or off screen, between friends and family or as a corporate experience.
Early on when I was focusing on fine-tuning the axiom I wanted to emblazon on my website, I brainstormed catch phrases to gain insight about what I wanted readers to experience when they invested their lives in my books. Ideas came to mind, such as, “Exploring the Heart, Inspiring the Soul” and “Digging Deep, Excavating the Heart.” I immediately scratched out the last one; it sounded too much like a horror film. The first one worked, but it seemed too cliché.
Finally I hit on the phrase, “Discover the Adventure.” It seemed to embody the idea of story and journey, a character—I’ll call her a sojourner—placed in a world at a moment somewhere along the continuum of time and events where circumstances set the tone for the course of the story. This course is most often referred to in fiction as plot.
In the real-life stories of our own lives we are placed in circumstances that are often out of our control. But like in any book, a rewarding and impactful journey is not just about how the characters end up, because we all know that not every character in every story has a happy ending. Some do have a happily-ever after (Cinderella). Some must die to save their countrymen in battle (Lord of the Rings).
Yet, it’s the spirit of the story, the way in which the characters respond to the ever-increasing stakes that grow and transform them, so that in the end we are moved and, perhaps, in a small way, find ourselves changed (Les Miserable). At times the events make us erupt with compulsive laughter. At other times, we weep for what is lost. Yet nothing is really lost if we are always looking forward in hope for what is still up ahead.
The call to “Discover the Adventure” gives meaning and purpose to the events that transpire, not only in the fictional tales we weave, but along the course plotted for our own real-life stories. It bolsters our faith—the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). And it reminds us that sometimes even the intrusion of a multitude of people on our private intellectual space can lead to inspiring ideas.