Every story, or song, or poem, or LIFE has at its core the purpose of answering the only question that really matters.
Several questions may be floating around in your mind at this moment. Certainly, life itself is fraught with questions. Most certainly, the world in these most recent of days, when everything seems a bit tilted on its axis, when at the moment you think you have heard the worst of something, another evil thing even more horrible rises to the surface, the questions scream at us:
Why does a loving God let this happen?
Why does evil win?
What is the point?
Why am I here?
The answers to metaphysical questions, to questions about the ramifications of free will in a fallen world, even to questions about the choices of an omnipotent God when we ourselves see only in part (1 Corinthians 13), are the kinds of answers that, once we actually have them, the questions themselves will no longer matter, for at that point we will no longer be part of this world, but literally in the next one.
But none of these profound and dear questions are at the heart of what it means to be human. And answering the question of being human is what lies at the core of every life and every creative thing produced to explore humanity.
And the question that is the core of all of that love, hate, mercy, fear, kindness and anger is this:
How do you cope?
We can think and question all that we want, philosophize and theorize, but how we actually make it from one breath to the next, from one catastrophe or challenge to another, how we are bent to our knees, being beaten down by the horrors of a world where the evil one exists and yet rise again, Phoenix-like from the ashes of our own existence, these answers are the core of all things good. The reflections of survival through coping are what give us heroes–in real life and in fiction.
The Bible is replete with sagas of men and women who face the absolute worst that a fallen world has to offer and come back again. Long before there existed a peoples who called their maker, LORD, Job became an unknowing puppet in a game played by the devil. Job questions God, demands an audience with God, but never turns his back on God, even when it seems that God has turned His back on Job. In the end, Job sees returned to him in plenty all that he had lost.
David, who has a heart like God’s, offers an even more complicated series of lessons in the art of coping. He has to survive being hunted down by his former mentor like a fox being trailed by a pack of bloodhounds. He rises to kingship only to be felled by his overwhelming lust for another man’s wife. The first child of that relationship falls ill and dies, the second becomes the king of great wisdom who actually builds the temple David longed to erect for God. In the stories told about him, and through the record of his psalms, we get a vivid picture of a man of great power who always loved God more, a king willing to dance in the street like a child in celebration of the LORD.
From prophets to disciples, the Bible gives us glimpses of what it means to be human in the light of He who casts away all shadows. Through rejoicing and prayer, through forgiveness and love, those who cope by taking on the yoke of Christ will find that the narrow way, though not easy, is the most rewarding.
Remember when the disciples asked Jesus why the people in some great tragedy of the day had had to die? The disciples thought it was because the people must have done something really awful. Jesus tells them that the people who perished were no different from anybody else. They died so that God’s purpose might be fulfilled. Paul reminds us that we see here only partially, as in a mirror. The question of why just isn’t as important for us to know about as the what, which is following God’s command to love Him first and foremost and love others as we love ourselves.
How do we make things better, today, for the people we meet, the people we know? What resources do we have that we aren’t putting into use? Why not shine the light Jesus so generously gave for us to shine?
In the opening scene of the greatest story ever told, your story, your soft eyes open. The glare of a single light above your mother’s bed or of a thousand lights in a sterile hospital room, send you into a wail of fright mixed with the joy of being alive. The air, air, so different from the amniotic fluid that has been your safe, warm blanket for nine months, riffles across your exposed skin, feeling sharp and making you long for the feel of the heartbeat to which you have grown to know as home.
What do you plan to do about it, this brisk entry into a reality you do not know a thing about, laying before you waiting to be learned?
That’s what great storytelling, and living, is all about–the stepping across new thresholds, stumbling, and rising again on our way back to the place every soul knows as home.