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The Big Picture: Knowing the Plot October 15, 2007

Posted by eric22222 in Deep Thoughts, General, Personal Favorites.

(Next session is up (19))

I’m feeling… not so great today. A lot of stuff is going on (which is usually the case, I know).

I was looking through some of my old files and found this large text document I had forgotten about. I read through it, and it cheered me up pretty good. What is it? Glad you asked. Several months back, I was told (by my sister) that I should write a book. I didn’t pay that idea any mind until a couple months later. I started typing up what I thought a chapter in such a book would look like. I decided to write about my experiences as a math-inclined, Christian geek. I wrote about six pages before calling it a day. I may never write a book, but I did write an encouraging note to my future self. Give it a read. Maybe it’ll help with whatever you’re going through:

The Big Picture
Knowing the Plot

Star Wars is a prerequisite for geek status. You simply can’t be a true geek without seeing the original trilogy. That’s why my role-playing group, gaming circle, and programming partner all were shocked when they found out I’d only seen episodes I and III from the recent trilogy. It was unanimously decided that failure to watch the original trilogy in a timely manner would be reason enough to revoke my geek status. In the true fashion of plot and storytelling, an unrelated event collided with this need in a spectacular manner: a few days later, Zach came back to the apartment with a set of home theater speakers and a new DVD player. He opened the box and pulled out a web of wires and cords.
“Gimme a hand with this, would ya?”
Zach and I worked into the evening, pulling cords behind sofas, occasionally forgetting which plug corresponded with which speaker. The thin strips of sunlight that squeezed through the venetian blinds migrated across the floor as Zach’s recliner was repositioned to the corner. By the time the strips had found the wall opposite the window, the speakers were in working order. All that was left was the inaugural sound test. We browsed Zach’s collection of movies for anything that had surround sound. This narrowed the choice down to just a handful of films. Half of them were Star Wars movies. It seemed like a good time as any to secure my geek status. With the DVD in place, Zach hit play.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
John Williams’s iconic fanfare emerges from the surround sound speakers. All around me, the brass section blasts its tune. The string section joins in as the yellow, sans-serif text scrolls into the infinite. As it fades from view, the epic tale begins.
Star Wars is perhaps the most parodied film of all time. I’ve seen countless cartoon parodies of Darth Vader and the deathstar. Light sabers are referenced in countless films and TV shows. Spending a noticeable slice of time on the internet, I’ve seen enough screenshots and redubbed trailers to know all the major scenes. I am well aware that [spoiler warning] Vader is Luke’s father. I know what Yoda looks like. Everybody already knows that. So in my head, I know the general plot, and I’ve got an idea of what happens in the climatic scenes, but none of it is connected. I knew what was going to happen, but had no idea of how and why it was going to happen.
My friend Adam later commented on how unusual it must’ve been, knowing all the major scenes ahead of time. We spoke online about the unique circumstances I was in.
“As soon as you see Luke flying just over the death star, you already know what’s coming.”
My cursor blinked in the chat window.
“You knew they’d succeed; it couldn’t have been very gratifying for you.”
He was wrong. It was true, I knew what was about to happen, but as the events unfolded I still felt that possibility of failure. I still felt tension in those moments where lasers narrowly missed hitting Luke’s ship. I still felt a sense of triumph as the deathstar was destroyed.
“Doesn’t matter. Just ’cause I knew how it was going to end didn’t change the fact that it was awesome.”
“Good answer. Guess you’re still a geek, then.”
“Hmm… thanks, I suppose.”

Our story unfolds in a similar way. We know what to expect in the end [spoiler warning]: Jesus returns in glory, Earth is restored, and we live happily ever after. No more illness, no more tears, no more death. Altogether, it’s a pretty satisfying ending.
Here’s the trouble: we don’t know when the ending is going to come, and we don’t know what happens beforehand. All we have to go on is that there’s going to be protagonists and villains. We can expect multiple story arcs for each character. There will be conflict, resolution, and cliffhangers. There’s going to be irony, plot twists, suspense, comic relief, and even the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. All we know is that there will be an amazing story with an amazing ending. What occurs within the pages and chapters is not yet known, and that really gets on our nerves.
Have you ever wanted God to just come down to Earth and spell out what to expect? For Him to just descend from the clouds, accompanied by a choir of angels and the sounding of trumpets just to tell you what happens next? Just a quick, “Hey there, just thought I’d stop by and tell you that you’re going to fail tomorrow’s exam, but you’ll still make a B in the class, so don’t sweat it. Later.” Then the clouds part, and God ascends back to the heavens above. Worry would leave our lives, right?
Not even close.
Let’s consider Moses. He and God were pretty close.
“Hey Moses, I’m God. Just wanted to let you know that you’re going to lead my people out of Egyptian oppression.”
“Um… what?”
“Yeah, Pharaoh won’t be too keen on the idea, so I’m going to have to do a bunch of supernatural feats through you.”
“I… er…”
“After that you guys are going to make it out of Egypt safely, so don’t worry about that.”
“Oh… ‘kay…”
Once Moses is over the initial shock of speaking with the Maker of the very earth he stood on, he speaks with Pharaoh. The ancient Egyptian equivalent of a secretary leads him and Aaron into the ancient Egyptian equivalent of a CEO’s office.
“Thank you for, um, for seeing us Mr. Pharaoh…”
“Gentlemen, I’m very busy so if you could, just get to the point.”
“Let my people go.”
“No… I don’t think I will.”
“Thank- wait, what?”
“Well, there’s lots of bricks to be made, monuments to be built, I just don’t think I could approve of losing that much manpower.”
“Bye now!”
And then the ancient Egyptian equivalent of an office door is slammed in their faces. Pharaoh lets out a sigh.
“If the Israelites have enough time to ask for breaks like that, they obviously don’t have enough work. Foreman, throw in a few more tasks to their workload.”
Standing outside the door, Moses looks at Aaron.
“That actually went better than I expected.”
After Moses is given a good talking-to by the workers, he’s feeling blue. God told him that the Israelites were going to be freed from the Egyptians and led to a better place. So far, nothing has gone too well. Moses was told by God Himself that things were going to end well, yet Moses was losing faith in God’s promise. Check out the end of Exodus 5:

22 Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

We do the same thing. Even though we know the end we still feel like things might not turn out the way God promised they would. As our lives unfold, we still feel that possibility that God might not come through. We still felt tension in those moments where trials come. We still felt a sense of triumph as our temptations are overcome.
Do we just fail to trust God? Are we unable to believe that He will do what He says He will do? I don’t think that’s it. As I sat on the edge of my seat watching Luke Skywalker narrowly avoid lasers, I knew how the series ended. So why was I still worried that he might not survive? Because stories can evoke emotions. Knowing the ending may remove the mystery, but it doesn’t take away the tension. Even though we know how the story ends, we’re still going to worry. Even if you trust God, understand that you may still worry. It’s not something that can easily be removed from your mind. Feeling that tension is just part of enjoying the story.

I sat there in awe before finally coming back to my senses. “That was the greatest thing ever.”
Zach walked over and retrieved the DVD from the player. He returned the disc to its case and the case to his collection.
“You’ve still got two to go before you can go back to your geek friends with your head held high.”
I ran this through my mind for a second. “You know, I still haven’t seen episode II.”
Zach shook his head. “Don’t worry about that one. It doesn’t count. In fact, you may gain even greater respect for not watching it.”
I laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.”



1. ashleydobbs - October 16, 2007

you’re my hero.

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