I hated breathing warm, previously inhaled air. It made me panic a little, so I lifted the blanket and tried to prop it up in such a way that I had a vent. It couldn’t be too big though, the glow of my flashlight would show and I’d be busted. I had school the next day, so I wasn’t supposed to stay up late. I was so caught up in the events that I couldn’t sleep. I had to see what happened next. Page after page, I followed Huckleberry Finn and Jim down the river. I’d just gotten to the part where they were separated in the fog and I was loving every word that Twain had penned.
I’d been enamored with the notion of running away and floating along the Boise River until I’d arrived somewhere interesting. But I’d followed that path before. It wasn’t as vast as the Mississippi. It wasn’t mysterious and adventurous like the south. My river was surrounded by office buildings and covered with pedestrian bridges- not nearly as fun.
I’ve had a strong desire to visit the South ever since I read Hucklebery Finn in third grade. Somehow, I never have. But when I’ve reread the novel as well as Tom Sawyer, I enjoy their stories because I see myself in these kids as they get into unsupervised trouble. Most writers who tell others how to make better narratives encourage us to create a protagonist that can essentially be replaced by the reader. This kind of story-telling draws people in. It causes more meaningful reactions and emotions as the plot climbs to euphoria then cascades into the darkness of harsh realities. Often, many of us view our own lives as novels in which we are the protagonists. Obviously, we are, right?
I touch. I see. I hear. I desire. I love. I squeal. I hate. I poke and occasionally stab (or want to).
Whenever I read psalms, and God says, “you” I think, “me”. Proverbs do this to me too. Even the prophets convict me of my vanity, my reluctance to help the poor and remind me that I bow down to idols. I place myself in the pages and verses and do everything I possibly can to make myself the center of attention because in all reality I am the focus of my universe. Me. But then I get to the New Testament and I read about Jesus. For some reason, it’s much easier to imagine myself yelling “Expelliarmus” and disarming someone from Slytherin than to envision walking on water like my Savior did. He said we’d do greater things and I can imagine some of them, but it isn’t the same as spitefully burning an oil refinery just as Ellis Wyatt did. I just can’t seem to place myself in Jesus’ shoes.
I can’t tell if God’s word is about us or for us. Perhaps it’s both. Regardless, we cannot force ourselves into the protagonists’ role of that story. If we apply what it says, we’ll realize that we aren’t the heroes of our own narratives. You and I function as the townspeople- the bystanders who suffer from the evil inflicted on us. Here’s where it breaks from the traditional plot though- we subject ourselves to the evil of this story. Yes, the devil and his army are out to get us- they delight in our sin, but at the end of the day, we’re the ones who lack character, resolve and a willingness to obey God. We sin. Jesus saves us from the evil mire we choose to live in, that we struggle to leave and that beckons some of us years after our salvation experience. The whole thing is about him. Not me. It isn’t about Jake and if I can pull my head out and think about it long enough, my life isn’t about me either.