Do you ever feel like a character in a story? For most of us, the big questions in life are “who am I?” and “what am I doing here?” Aren’t these truly the questions all characters are forced to face at some point in their story’s plot? Main characters usually aren’t aware of the goal they need to be pursuing until an “inciting incident,” an occurrence that sets them on a different path, gives them meaning. Side characters often don’t understand their roles until midway through the story or even towards the end. Even the main character (hero) doesn’t fully realize his or her purpose until the end, when some great task must be accomplished or a great evil overcome.
There is a vast difference between witnessing characters move through a story and living in the midst of your own story. Think about it: how many things that happen to you or around you seem random? Throughout your day, probably most things. Sure, there are a certain number of occurrences that you expect out of your day, but the things you didn’t foresee most likely appear to be completely random. Passing this person on your walk, interacting with that clerk at the store, receiving this notification, getting that phone call. What we often can’t see in the moment is that each of these things carries the potential to set our journeys on a different path than they otherwise would have taken.
Life is a series of unfolding and discovering. As we live and move, we discover more about what’s really happening and where we are heading. One of the biggest human frustrations is confusion. And confusion breeds fear. When we don’t understand who we are, what’s happening, or where we’re going, we fear the worst. Our lives are more often than not spent avoiding pain, dodging conflict, protecting ourselves and what we love. How many of these avoidances are bred by fear?
When we watch a movie or read a novel, we get to see the characters encounter obstacles throughout the story. Some are emotional or psychological, some are physical, some are spiritual. We also get to see how they respond or react to the obstacles. Will they stand up and fight? Will they prove strong and overcome their fear or grief? Or will they shrink back until another obstacle presents itself when they are stronger and this time can prove victorious? When we watch a character’s journey unfold, we get a front row seat to everything that’s going on in their story. And while we may not know everything in the middle, by the end it all comes together. We get the full picture even as revelation is dawning on the character of what each piece along the way was for. Now, a lot of times as the audience we are even allowed glimpses into parts of the plot that the character is not yet aware of. So why do our personal stories not feel like they are working out like the ones we watch? Maybe it’s because we’re the character who is still on the journey of discovery, and we are only given a limited view.
Some people are the audience, watching our lives from the outside. They may see things that we don’t and be able to offer a different perspective, but they don’t know the end, and they may not even know our full purpose. Then we have the Author, our Creator, who knows beginning to end, who sees how all the main characters and side characters connect together, who understands all along how all the pieces fit. He does not fret when we have to face an obstacle, because he already knows the outcome. He knows the end of the story, and he knows that it is good.
So if you ever feel like your life seems random, too full of pain, confusing, or just doesn’t seem to follow any kind of plot, just remember that you are in the midst of a story. As a character in the middle of the plot, you probably can’t see everything yet. You have a limited view and limited understanding. But take courage in knowing that in time the pieces will come together, you’ll get to look back at the end as revelation dawns in your heart. You will laugh in wonder at how perfectly plotted every part was, and you’ll be glad that you didn’t quit in the middle of the journey you didn’t understand.