Posts Tagged With: john eldredge

Not Going at it Alone

Why are so many stories about people banding together in small, close-knit groups (or ones that become that way)? Even the brooding loners eventually join a team — Logan joins the X-Men, Ironman goes with the Avengers. This theme permeates writing, film and history, as John Eldredge writes in Waking the Dead:

When Neo is set free from the Matrix, he joins the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar…[and] the small fellowship [is] called to set the captives free…a family bound together in a single fate. Together, they train for battle. Together, they plan their path…each has a role, a gifting, a glory…You see this sort of thing at the center of every great story. Dorothy takes her journey with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and of course, Toto. When he left Rivendell, Frodo didn’t head out with a thousand Elves. He had eight companions. When Captain John Miller is sent deep behind enemy lines to save Private Ryan, he goes in with a squad of eight rangers…[even] Jesus had the Twelve.

It is in our nature, our very design, to not go at it alone. This is why our art, our writings, and our history, so often remind us of this. Eldredge concludes:

Though we are part of a great company, we are meant to live in little platoons. The little companies we form must be small enough for each of the members to know one another as friends and allies. Is it possible for five thousand people who gather…to really and truly know one another? …how about five hundred? One hundred and eight? It can’t be done…It can be inspiring and encouraging to celebrate with a big ol’ crowd of people, but who will fight for your heart?

Our stories are reflections of who we are and remind us not to forsake our nature.

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Why Does Every Story Have a Villain?

In Waking the Dead, John Eldredge writes:

Little Red Riding Hood is attacked by a wolf. Dorothy must face and bring down the Wicked Witch of the est…Frodo is hunted by the Black Riders…Beowulf kills the monster Grendel…Saint George kills the Dragon. The children who stumbled into Narnia are called upon by Aslan to battle the White Witch and her armies…

So why does every story have a villain?

“…Because yours does.”

What are the villains in your life, your Story? Addictions, vices, work, bad habits, crazy people… As Eldredge writes, we are “born into a world at war.” He is coming from the perspective of Evil that was long ago unleashed in the world and seeks to undermine all that is good.

Our stories have villains because our stories are inspired by life. Fiction is only fact in different clothes.

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Have you Abandoned your Story?

Every wonder why stories speak to people as they do? Is it, as Brent Curtis and John Eldredge write in The Sacred Romance, that it is written into our very beings?

Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology…Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with…read[ing] a novel, or listen[ing] to the stories of someone else’s life.

Is it any wonder why stories of people finding their purpose, their part of the Story, never go away? A little Hobbit defeats evil and saves Middle Earth…frail Steve Rogers becomes Captain America…Luke Skywalker doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore… Perhaps it is because we too often abandon our story?

Children aren’t a bad place to look when we’re trying to get beyond the cynicism of adulthood…Before skepticism takes over (what we mistakenly call maturity), children intuit the true Story as a fairy tale…the best fairy tales aren’t romantic in the poor sense of the word. They are realistic, only more so. There are ogres and evil sorcerers and wicked stepmothers, to be sure. But they are neither the whole story or the heart of it. There are genuine heroes and heroines and a cause to live for that is worth dying for. There is a quest or a journey strewn with danger and the stakes could never be higher.

Choose to not ignore that you are part of something bigger than your day to day tasks and busyness. Find your place in the Story.

It is not too late.

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A Story Cliché or the Story we all Want to Tell?

I was reading a discussion concerning a certain fantasy author and someone asked if the author was a cliché writer. This appeared to have been asked as a bit of a put-down. What was meant by cliché writer? Since the writer has authored almost exclusively fantasy, I suspect the critics meant the story line so popular to the genre: Reluctant hero convinced to undertake some sort of quest; Hero joins with others who support the quest; Quest includes finding some object or another and defeating a terrible evil.

Is it fair to call this a cliché? I don’t think so.

In the simplest definition of the word, something becomes a cliché through overuse, not necessarily through any fundamental flaw with item in question. This supposed fantasy trope is a common framework, but it is the details in execution that differ with each story that make it succeed. If the critics were being fair, they would recognize that this cliché isn’t unique to fantasy, but — in one form another — prevalent across much of storytelling.

The reluctant-hero-team-up-battle-evil-save-the-world plot is at the heart of nearly every superhero film or show so popular now. However, it isn’t unique to the fantastic. How many other thrillers, adventures, mysteries or whatever you can think of include one or more of what is supposedly unique to fantasy? Better yet, why is this story line the bedrock of so much human storytelling? John Eldridge explains in his book Epic

Notice that all the great stories pretty much follow the same story line. Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken…

It’s true of every fairy tale, every myth, every Western, every epic…Have you ever wondered why?

Every story, great and small, shares the same essential structure because every story we tell borrows its power from a Larger Story, a Story woven in the fabric of our being…

All of these stories borrow from the Story. From Reality. We hear echoes of it through our lives. Some secret written on our hearts. A great battle to fight, and someone to fight for us. An adventure, something that requires everything we have, something to be shared with those we love and need.

There is a Story that we just can’t seem to escape. There is a Story written on the human heart.

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Your Soul-Library

Why read books? Here’s one reason, from John Eldredge:

Certain stories come into your life, and because of the way they come, or the timing of the moment, or because of what they speak to you when they do arrive, they become a part of your soul-library—books that both shape and reflect who you are as a man.

Does the newspaper do that? Your favorite films? Binge-watching your favorite show? There’s a reason books endure over generations and why so many are written.

They are someone’s Story, ready to become part of yours.

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Timeless Storytelling

Frederick Buechner wrote (as quoted by John Eldredge in The Sacred Romance) that “there has never been an age that has not produced fairy tales.” Eldredge adds, “There is something deeply true about a fairy tale. It is a timeless form of storytelling because it..captures both our deepest fears and highest hopes.” Buechner also wrote:

…the world is full of darkness and danger and ambiguity…There are fierce dragons who guard the treasure…To take the wrong turning of the path is to risk being lost in the forest forever, and an awful price has to be paid…It is a world of dark and dangerous quests…

In other words, fairy tales, fantasy and other fiction are not purely escapist in their design. They remind of us of the world we live in as so many try to pretend it is not that way. Those stories also remind of us of what burns inside us and tell us not to suppress hope, courage and wonder.

That is why Storytelling is an essential part of our culture that must never disappear.

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What is your Story?

What is your Story? Have you found it? Do you keep putting it off? We all have a Story — an Epic we are meant to be part of. Perhaps that’s why people love books and film so much. They let us enter someone else’s Story. Maybe that should remind us to look for our own. Never stop searching until you find yours. Don’t be content with just waking up every day to randomness. Find what you were meant to do. What you were meant to be.

John Eldridge writes in his book Epic

Notice that all the great stories pretty much follow the same story line. Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken…

It’s true of every fairy tale, every myth, every Western, every epic…Have you ever wondered why?

Every story, great and small, shares the same essential structure because every story we tell borrows its power from a Larger Story, a Story woven in the fabric of our being…

All of these stories borrow from the Story. From Reality. We hear echoes of it through our lives. Some secret written on our hearts. A great battle to fight, and someone to fight for us. An adventure, something that requires everything we have, something to be shared with those we love and need.

There is a Story that we just can’t seem to escape. There is a Story written on the human heart.

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Disruptive Honesty

How honest are you with other people? Or do you find yourself doing what John Eldredge writes in Beautiful Outlaw:

We chitchat. We spend our days at a level of conversation as substantive as smoke. We dance around one another like birds in a ritual, bobbing, ducking, puffing out our chests, flapping our wings, circling one another, no advancing, now retreating…Let’s be honest – why aren’t we more honest with each other? Because it will cost us.

It will offend people. People don’t like being challenged. We don’t want to be seen as rocking the boat. Maybe that’s what draws so many to writing. Explore truth through storytelling. Some may think that this is a flaw in us, not being able to talk directly to each other. To an extent this is true, but our minds our wired for imagination. It is the source for innovation, thought and revolution. Storytelling reaches back into the depths of history in every culture. Homer. Chaucer. Milton. Dante. Twain. Poe. Dickens. Even Christ used stories to reach people.

Stories can be the gateway to Truth. They will never go away.

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Who are We Really?

That is often the question of theologians and philosophers. But it was also what the ordinary folk used to ask and could readily answer. Now, locked up in reality television and other alternate realities, people ignore this important question until it’s too late. Is it any wonder that our novels are so often about people searching for who they really are? Trying to become what they were meant to be?

John Eldredge writes in The Journey of Desire:

We all share the same dilemma — we long for life and we’re not sure where to find it…Our days come to us as a riddle and the answers aren’t handed out with our birth certificates. We must journey to find the life we prize. And the guide we have been given is the desire set deep within, the desire we often overlook or mistake for something else or even choose to ignore.

The greatest human tradegy is simply to give up the search. There is nothing of greater importance than the life of our deep heart. To lose heart is to lose everything…

The clue to who we really are and why we are here comes to us through our heart’s desire.

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