Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Plots and Voices

In a particular line on a particular page, I felt like God called me to tell stories. The moment was revelatory, though, absent were scrolls, bowls, and fiery wheels from heaven. God's calling was a thought: Be a voice. Tell stories... but mostly Mine.

Now, for a living I recycle other people's stories. Sometimes I exaggerate the details. In college I learned from my friend Rick that embellishment and nicknames make common tales legendary. Stories of "Positive" Scott and biology experiments-gone-wrong are shelved in my memory.

The art of story-telling, however, requires more than attention to (and extension of) detail. Narration sizzles or falters based upon the voice of its author. Engaging story-tellers lean in to whisper, stand up to shout, pause and posture, blink and stare; voice is incarnated.

Some stories are impossible to exaggerate. One that I often tell is an old, old story... It begins with a voice that could have been a whisper or shout. C.S. Lewis and modern scholarship envision the Genesis voice as a song. Ken Ham and New Creationists consider the initial utterance as a scientific statement. (Literary criticism has killed many a good tale.)

This Story is the grand narrative of the Bible. Its central characters are God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and God's covenant people. Its plot line unfolds from Creation, Curse, Covenant, and Cross (and Resurrection!) to Church and Culmination. The biblical plot is not static; it moves. The biblical plot is not linear; it spirals. The biblical plot does not resolve; it rises from the dead.

Every plot is a version or perversion of His. In the beginning... spawned Once upon the time... He is risen! birthed Happily ever after. Plots and stories permeate our world. God is not dead. We must tell.

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And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
(C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

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