How Easter Sets the Pattern for Great Storytelling

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:

  1. The immediate story of the narrator, well-told
  2. The story of the personal life of the reader as drawn out by parallels through personal identification
  3. 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.


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  • Lore Ferguson

    Mmmmm. I love this. I was just thinking this weekend what a BIG story the gospel is, and how it is big regardless of how showy a person’s testimony is. God came to earth. That’s big. 

    Thanks for writing—and I checked out the book project! Looks great! 

    • Stephanie S. Smith

      How come your comments are always just as thought-provoking as the posts above? I love what you’re saying here. It is big! 

  • HopefulLeigh

    I heard about the book from Alece Ronzino and Tracee Persiko but I didn’t realize you were involved with it, Stephanie. So cool! I can’t wait to read it.

    But to answer your question, timing and pace means everything, whether we’re reading a book or living our lives. While there are a few things in my life I’d like to see into the future about, truthfully it’s better that I don’t know how it’ll all play out. God is stretching and growing me, preparing me for if/when those things occur. For the story arc to ring true, character development has to occur. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite examples of redemptive storytelling. We don’t know how it’ll all play out until it actually happens and then we heave a sigh because of the way it fits the pieces together.

    • Stephanie S. Smith

      The book is shaping up to be a great read, can’t wait to share it! 

      “For the story arc to ring true, character development has to occur.” So true, I love that. And often we don’t see any of this until looking back in hindsight, which is why I think it’s important to process and actively look for God’s authorship at work in our lives. 

  • Amy K. Sorrells

    This is terrific! Love this!!!! While I was on a run today and trying to figure out how to smooth out a couple of plot and protagonist issues, I thought of similar things about God’s story in and of our lives. Thanks so much!!!

  • Everyday Liturgy

    This really taps into what C.S. Lewis said about Christ being the “true myth.” If we trap the Easter story in proving how it was possible we lose sight of how it is the Story that is interwoven into all of our stories.

    • Stephanie S. Smith

      I’d love to read that from Lewis, do you know where I can find it?

  • Christie Purifoy

    So glad we met! I’m looking forward to reading more of your own redemptive stories here.

    • Stephanie S. Smith

      Likewise, Christie! Just peeked over at your blog as well…added to RSS! 

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