The Greatest Storyteller Ever

There is so  much about writing that I love, and there is so much I have learned since I started writing. But one of the most special – and most unexpected – lessons I have learned isn’t about plot development or characterization, marketing or editing. It is about God.

I have never doubted that God is the Creator. I learned it as a child and I evaluated that teaching as a teen. As an adult, I have experienced the truth of it as I have seen some of his amazing creations firsthand – mountains and deserts and rain forests and volcanoes.

But until I started writing, I thought of only the creations that I could see. God is the Master Artist. But I have learned that is just part of God’s creativity. He is also the Master Storyteller.

When I create a character, I begin with her personality, history, likes and dislikes. Then I determine where she will live, who her friends are, I decide her strengths and weaknesses. And then I give her a goal. What is she working toward? How does she get there? And what stands in her way? That last one is a biggie. Stories are dull without that. Just imagine if Cinderella wanted to go the ball and her stepmother said, “Sure, honey. Let me help you find a perfect dress”? She goes, meets the prince, falls  in love and gets married on the spot, both glass slippers fully in tact.

How boring would that be? We love the ending of Cinderella because we are invested in her story, we are rooting for her. We have seen her through the struggles of her horrible stepmother, stepsisters and evil step-cat. She has earned that pumpkin carriage. That ending wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if it weren’t for that. Cinderella – and her audience – understands how sweet this marriage to the prince is because we have seen the struggle it took for her to arrive at the altar.

And so it dawned on me — if God is the Master Storyteller (and he is!) — then he is doing the same things for us. He is creating a story in our lives. And our story has a plot and conflicts and a character who is being developed through those elements. Once I saw that, I began examining my “story” and found examples of the Master Storyteller at work in ways I had never recognized before.

Foreshadowing: I switched majors my last semester in college, from English Education to English Literature. I was a little nervous about this decision, but I believed it was what God wanted me to do.  Fast forward a couple years — I had my first child and was looking for part-time work to supplement our income while my husband was going through seminary. I applied to teach Remedial English at a local community college. The job requirement was no fewer than 18 college-level English courses. Had I not switched majors, I wouldn’t have had enough courses to qualify for the job. AND in that job, the majority of my students were non-native English speakers who were struggling to learn our language. I got a first-hand look at the difficulties inherent in language-learning, as well as some real-life case studies on what to do and what NOT to do when learning a language. Little did I know that a few years after that, I would be learning a new language (Spanish). God had allowed me to have that job for more than just extra income. It helped prepare me for the next chapter in my story. And it all started with a change in majors!

Internal Conflict: I hate moving. With a passion. Yet we have moved all over the world: Tampa to Texas, Texas to Costa Rica, Costa Rica to Spain, Spain to Tampa (great storytellers revisit old settings, too, I have noticed!). Every move was painful – saying goodbye to people we loved, places we loved, homes we loved — it is heartbreaking. Then starting over — every time but the last it was in a place we didn’t know. We had to make new friends, learn our way around, set up house. I hate starting over. The first move was the worst. Not because of the move itself but because of my attitude. I was mad at God, mad at Dave, mad at the world. I did NOT want to leave Tampa! But God used that move to draw me closer to him, to strengthen our marriage, and to prepare us for the next move – the biggest of our life. When it came time to leave Texas for Costa Rica, I was sad, but I wasn’t angry. I knew God was with us in the move and that he had plans for us there in San Jose. I can’t say that every move got easier, but I can say  that I am grateful for every move. The Master Storyteller knew that much in my character needed to be developed, and so he brought that conflict into my life. And he did that because he knew there were areas where I was “flat” and weak, areas where my character was underdeveloped. And God desires, not that our lives are perfect and conflict-free, but that we are constantly being shaped into someone who looks like Him.

I could go on, but hopefully my thoughts have caused yours to be ignited, and I want you to think about your story, now.

What is God doing in your story? What has he done already? What amazing plot twists has he thrown in? What unexpected conflicts has he allowed? Praise God that he loves us enough to be personally involved in each of our stories. And may we all be characters worthy of our Author.

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