Aristotle wrote in the 4th century before Christ that art imitates life (http://prestwickhouse.blogspot.com/2009/06/does-art-imitate-life-or-does-life.html). There is some thought that perhaps life imitates art, but I’m more in the camp with Aristotle that art imitates life. When Aristotle was writing, he was thinking about poetry more than novels and stories. Still, there is an argument that life informs all forms of art.
If we consider some classic writings we can see how fears about modern medicine and science or fear of communism were themes of 1984 and Frankenstein. You could see why some think books like the Harry Potter and Twilight series might draw readers into witchcraft or the occult. Books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next, Girl, Interrupted, and The Bell Jar share the stories of mental health illness. Novels like The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women and the Secret Garden are coming of age stories.
All these literary works and all the books we read draw us in because there is something within the story, be it characters or context, that we can relate to in our own lives. The stories give us the opportunity to reflect on our lives from a different perspective or allow us to escape our lives for some other reality of our dreams.
It is popular to think of our lives as a novel. We talk about the beginning and ending of chapters in our lives. For most of us, though, our lives are too long and complicated to be contained to one novel. Our lives might better fit into a series, like the Game of Thrones or the Stephanie Plum novels. Perhaps each decade of our lives is a new book in the series or an eventful year might be its own book.
If you reflect on your life, you can see all the elements of good literature such as characters, plots, settings, themes, point of view, conflict and genre. In your series, you have a children’s book, a youth and young adult story, a coming of age novel, maybe a romance or two, some wisdom literature toward the middle and something light hearted as the final book is written. In each book, the characters may change, at least the role of each character may change. Settings may change with moves in jobs or homes or towns. Your point of view evolves as you grow.
Each book has a conflict, climax, and resolution. I think of this as the ebbs and flows of life as we deal with changes and growth, and in some cases conflict, like divorce, death or addiction. Gene Wilder said “don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…he lived happily ever after.” Gene saw life differently than I do. Maybe I’m over the romanticized worldview in which happily ever after is possible. I know that happily ever after is the end of one book and the beginning of a new book. That new book may end with the phrase and they lived happily ever after like the last one. There is resolution to our current conflict or drama where we have a rest and all is right with the world. But, there is only one book in our life that ends with “they lived happily ever after” and that’s the book that ends our earthly life and begins our eternal life in Heaven.
While novels in a series have different themes as the series moves on, it is within a particular genre. As the themes of our lives evolve, I think our genre is mystery. The One we are always searching for is God, the living Mystery. For people of faith, we are searching for the God who is the true central character in our story. He is the One we spend our lives trying to track down, trying to figure out His next move, trying to find in the world, trying to capture, but we never can contain Him, because just when we think we’ve got God figured out, we realize that that understanding is but a glimpse of who He is and what He does. Isaiah 65: 1 – 9 says that God is One who desires to be sought and is willing to reveal Himself to those who honestly search for Him with pure hearts and good intentions.
Psalm 42 is the cry of a writer who is searching for God but cannot find the One for whom he longs. The writer says as the deer searches for water, I search for God. I long for God. Where can I go to find God? The writer is distraught, in trouble, sad, in need of help of some kind. All his friends are taunting him where is your God. The psalm writer remembers a day when he could go and find God singing to and praising God. Now, his soul is troubled and God can’t be found. He wonders if God has forgotten him, but he holds out hope in his God.
The man is in the depths of a dark night of the soul. He needs help and the One he knows can help him is nowhere to be found. Why is it that the times we most need God we have the hardest time finding God? Why is it only after our rescue that we are able to see God’s work in our time of need?
It is because we must change or be changed in order to move onto the resolution of the conflict. The climax of our story is the point at which we most need God. We are transformed before the conflict can be resolved and we can reach the happily ever after end of this book in the series of our life’s story. The Psalm writer is writing Psalm 42 at the height of the climax of his story waiting on God to resolve the problem all the while searching for God to come to his rescue, transform him, and give him his happily ever after.
The fall from climax to resolution may introduce new characters, a new point of view, a new setting, a new mood; there will be something new about the shift in the story. It is all part of the journey of transformation that happens throughout our life. Something happens and in order for us to move past it we must allow ourselves to be transformed. That transformation only comes from communion with God and we may not recognize God’s work until it’s done. We can’t see God through the tears shed in our dark night; still, we hold out hope that God is there and at work.
The whole of the Bible is a narrative work. It is a collection of books that include stories about the people of God. Throughout the narrative, the people of God are trying to make sense of who God is, what He is saying and how He works. Jesus begins a major shift in the search for God, because God came near to us in the incarnate Son. We continue to turn to these stories, because we find comfort in the knowledge that for thousands of years people have been in the same pursuit of God that we are. Also, we search the Scriptures looking for help in how to find God. But, we do not find God in the Scriptures. We find clues to who God is. We find God in the world because He is a Living God, among us, not up there, but all around us.
In recent weeks, we’ve talked about the moments in which we experience God, whether it be drinking a cup of coffee on the porch early in the morning witnessing the beauty and harmony of nature, a quiet moment in your home while reassured that everything will be okay or singing a favorite hymn in church renewing your faith. We’ve talked about the times God has helped us or brought us a partner, family and friends. These are points in our story in which we’ve found God for a moment. Those moments give us hope in our continued pursuit as we seek God.
God is up there. God is out there. God is in here. God is in you. There are so many places to find God if we can be still and know that His presence is within and all around us. He’s working in your life bringing you good things and helping you with the bad things. He is your constant companion and every present help. His love is steadfast and compassion boundless.
When we most need Him, it is most difficult for us to find God because we’re trying too hard to fix it ourselves or worry it away. On a weekend like Labor Day weekend, we are reminded that rest is helpful in our pursuit of God. When we have rested in God’s presence, set down the things we’re trying to figure out for ourselves, we can find God’s still small voice calling us to the transformation of our heart and mind that we may trust God’s guidance through the conflict and know we will be a better version of ourselves on the other side. He may not have brought us to it, but he’ll get us through it to a happy ending and the beginning of a new book in our series of the story of your life’s journey. Amen.