When I read, I can enjoy following one solid plot line until its resolving end, but in my opinion what makes for really excellent reading is when a story weaves not one thread but three:
- The immediate story of the narrator, well-told
- The story of the personal life of the reader as drawn out by parallels through personal identification
- And the story of Christ’s unfolding drama of cosmic redemption, as the author and the reader both are led to walk through, inhabit, and reenact His life, death, and resurrection
I was reflecting on this storytelling craft this weekend, as the church moved through Holy Week. As hundreds of thousands of people this weekend walked through the greatest story ever told, culminating in Good Friday, Silent Saturday, and Easter morning.
My parents often took my sisters and me growing up to a passion play, and every year I seemed to forget that the play ended just as the sun set, with the sealing of the tomb. It killed me that the story left off suspended in such high tension, everyone walking silently to the parking lot to go back home. But I have since learned of the soul’s need to dwell in the funeral hour before rushing ahead to the resurrection.
Like the hinge of success for the perfect joke, timing and pace matters in storytelling. If we get stuck in the grief of Good Friday, the liminal space of Holy Saturday, our hope will crumble like the dust. And if we skip ahead to the hallelujahs and the empty tomb, our victory becomes shallow.
The Good Story requires us to walk faithfully, thoughtfully, through each scene. It requires us to witness the violence of Good Friday, the disturbing details of which the gospels do not censor, and certainly aren’t family-friendly. It requires us to wade through the shadowlands of Holy Saturday, unsure and in between. And then it invites us to experience resurrection.
This is the kind of story I want to read, live, and worship.
What stories, books, testimonies do you enjoy that have exhibited this redemptive story pattern? Does this kind of story development resonate with you, or not?
P.S. If this kind of story appeals to you, I invite you to check out a new book project from Moody Publishers and STORY Chicago which I’m excited to be working on behind the scenes.