As a loving Father, God has not only provided us with a family setting in which to grow up. He also has a will for His family, a plan, a lovingly thought out destiny. His plan is the world’s true story and by it we gauge our own progress and find an anchor for life’s many storms. Those who are members of the Catholic Church step into a new corporate and personal story which can only be understood and lived in the context of family.
All throughout history people have had a natural tendency to frame experiences in terms of a drama or story. This desire, common to all of us, is very important for understanding both the Bible and our own lives. We tend to approach the Bible and life assuming that both will make perfect sense, both complete with introduction, body and conclusion. We were born, we will grow up and find that beautiful mate with whom we will live happily ever after, then discover the right occupation, raise two-point-five perfect children and finally retire with adequate funds to take us through the golden years. In the same way, we expect to pick up the Bible and read it cover to cover with the story-line hitting us squarely in the face. Neither our lives nor the Bible are quite so simple.
William Kilpatrick explains, “the same impulse that makes us want our books to have a plot makes us want our lives to have a plot. We need to feel that we are getting somewhere, making progress” (William Kilpatrick, Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong [New York: Touchstone, 1993], 192). Perhaps this desire accounts for our being drawn to novels that take the form of a journey or adventure such as The Odyssey, Moby-Dick, Swiss Family Robinson, or motion pictures like Love Story or Rudy, the story of an unlikely football hero.
Indeed, good stories are powerful. They provide us with a path, an opportunity to make better sense of our lives. Many times stories alert our hearts to the fact that life is a journey, a quest that goes beyond merely surviving. But many find themselves tired, empty, living day-to-day without a story. Kilpatrick observes:
[When we] turn our attention to those who attempt suicide, we find that the problem is not so much that they have lost their self-esteem but, more importantly, that they have lost the narrative thread of their lives. Life has become pointless, without plot or direction. We are willing to endure suffering when the suffering has meaning, but meaning is exactly what is absent in the case of a potential suicide. When suffering can be set within a narrative scheme, we manage to keep going; but if life itself is pointless, why put up with its thousand mockeries and cruelties? (ibid., 194)
Our desire and fascination with stories suggests that there is an ultimate story of which we are an integral part, a story to which we are drawn that is bigger than ourselves. As man’s longing for God provides evidence for His existence, so the ultimate story, written by God, is evident by our endless search for a plot in which we can envision ourselves participating in a way that will make sense of our lives.
St. Augustine once said concerning our need for God, that “our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 30). We could also say that no story will leave us with a sense of completeness and belonging until we enter His story (Tweet this). For His story provides the comprehensive story-line by which every life finally makes sense. Ironically we often find ourselves resisting our heavenly Father much like a teen resists being identified with parents at a high school function. We wrestle with those who are there to nourish and teach us.
This post is an excerpt from His Story Is Your Story, a chapter by Jeff Cavins in Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God, by Scott Hahn.