What is it about fictional stories—produced by authors like J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis—that mesmerize the modern reader? While some may write off those stories as mere fairytale, one ought to ponder: is there something more to the child-like fascination that manifests from embracing the whimsical adventure of each tale? To which I’d suggest that indeed there is.
In story-telling, fiction is linked to reality on the common ground of what is referred to in the literature realms as the monomyth. This term describes the reality that, while there are an infinite amounts of stories in existence, both fact and fiction, the monomyth (meaning one universal story) is the unifying meta-story that expresses the human experience. This concept uses a highly relatable narrative pattern that develops a hero, or heroes, that are sent on an adventure who, along the way, face obstacles that try to prevent him or her from reaching their destiny. While you and I may never literally encounter an orc or an evil witch, it’s the essence of the obstruction that resonates with the soul of the viewer. Humanity undergoes hardship daily that attempts to prevent us from reaching our destiny driven by hope. The universal attraction to the fantasy genre reveals the boundless yearning for a remarkable real life story as well. However, just as Frodo, Harry Potter, and Katniss sought to overcome the hurdles of their reality, you and I can do the same in our world. Simply put: you and I daily write our stories and therefore ought to fight with the fervor and integrity in our life-adventure. In pursuing a life of thriving, we must recognize the story we tell with the life we’ve been given.
With that, here are a few essentials of “real-life story-ing”:
1. Unlock HOPE!
2. Create you CHARACTER!
3. “Just keep swimming!”
4. Contribute to OTHERS’ stories!
1. Unlock Hope -The driving force for living out a spectacular real life narrative, comparable to that which humankind longs for on the movie screen, is the deep sense of hope in something greater. That “something” is worth more than any hardship in life. For me, I find hope in the promise offered by Jesus as expressed in Romans 1:16-17. Because of Jesus’ promise to creation, there is no hindrance that outweighs the hope of what is to come. With a genuine establishment of hope, life’s obstacles become put into their place: difficult, but worth it. What is your hope? More tangibly, what are you skills? What gifts are you wired with? In the refinement of these gifts lies a sense of purpose—something that far outweighs the adversity. Whether you are a video producer, mail deliverer, or a teacher, utilizing your purpose puts perspective on your reason to thrive.
2. Create your Character – When I was a kid, I used to be a semi-avid gamer (what kid isn’t?). One game that rested near to my heart was Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on PlayStation 2. In this game, the objective was to play through the plot of the final Lord of the Rings movie in order to defeat evil and bring peace back to middle earth. However, there is not only one character to use in the game. Instead, each new checkpoint allowed for the user to pick a new character or continue using the same one. Being that I thought the bow and arrow to be the most incredible weapon on this earth, I fell in love with Legolas, the arrow-wielding elf. Without a doubt, I picked him for every battle! With that, there is a point to this story—besides me having a chance to boast that I beat the game in less than a week! The point is this: I was allowed to choose the character I wanted to be during battle. In a similar way, you and I can choose the character we want to be for the sake of our own story. Yes there are human limitations, but nonetheless, you and I ought to choose what kind of character we want to be. The second step to writing a thriving life story is picking the kind of character you want to be. Do you want to be someone who fights for good? How do you want to do this? How can you use your hope and skills to shape your character?
3. Just Keep Swimming – In the Pixar film Finding Nemo, Dory—Marlin’s adventure companion— caroled one of the most profound pieces of advice. in a moment where the situation seemed bleak and hopeless Dory sang, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” Although this advice stands as a silly catch phrase from the loveable blue tang fish, there is something discerningly true. Though the circumstance was far from favorable, Dory intrinsically knew that the best remedy for the chaos was going to be achieved one step at a time. In the same way, in pursuit of writing our story, we ought to recognize that our hopes and character do dictate our future. However, that fate is navigated on a day-to-day basis. Ask yourself, what actions can I make today that draw me closer to the story I want to write? What is today allowing for me to learn? What kind of lesson have I learned today? Perhaps you can start a journal that records one truth you learned per day. After 1 year, you will have a written log of the truth you have to share with yourself and others.
4. Contribute to others’ Stories – Here is the reality check of this post: you and I are not the only ones writing a story. To put it plainly, other people in your life are not stepping stones for you to write your story. Conversely, every single person is also writing a story (whether they mean to or not belongs in a different blog!) In a heavily consumer-based and individualized culture, it is always about “me, myself, and I.” However, this should not be! In high school I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a large choir group full of talented musicians. It was here where I learned about the beauty of harmony, both on a musical and communal level. During rehearsal, our conductor constantly checked each section to make there sure there was a balance of volume, accuracy of pitch, and precise rhythm. He did this so meticulously day in a day out. This because of section, and sometimes even within the section, there are different volumes, pitches, and rhythms going on at the same time. A choir of 30 people does not sing the same volume, note, and rhythm at the same time. Instead, they sing in harmony. Unified by all sorts of different musical elements. It’s a choir of disciplined and well-orchestrated singers that produces the best music. In the same way, as you write your story remember that so does your neighbor. Highly coordinated diverse parts produce the best music. Highly coordinated characters write the best story. Who are some people in your life that you can write a story with?
Finally, I want to urge you to continue to fight for your story.
Thriving is a process that takes time and effort. Precious gems, maybe like the one on your finger, were not made overnight. Instead, it took an extended period of time under extreme conditions in order to create the beautiful product. With that, my suggestion is this: allow your circumstance to supplement your “gemhood”—it was what you were created for. Each obstacle is a new opportunity to be refined.Each hardship is a chance to improve your character. Each adversity functions as the means to strengthening your hope. In light of your hope, work day by day to develop your character so that you are able to produce a story that works harmoniously with your surrounding community. Upon doing so, you will have created a narrative that ought to be titled “Pursuing MY Thrive!”
Tim Shenkin – Is a soon-to-be graduate from Hope International University (Fullerton, CA). He will have a B.A. in Intercultural Studies with a minor in biblical studies. Following his time at HIU, he plans to attend Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, CA) in order to to obtain a Masters in Theology with an emphasis in Just Peacemaking. Aside from his time in school, Tim is also a collegiate volleyball player, musician, and aspiring writer.
“Mess is the precondition of creativity. Creativity is not neat. It is not orderly. When we are being creative we don’t know what is going to happen next. When we are being creative a great deal of what we do is wrong. When we are being creative we are not efficient.” -Eugene Peterson
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