When I studied film and television at university, I quickly learnt a very sobering lesson. It turns out that your favourite movies and TV shows follow quite strict formulas. I was shocked! And yet, it’s true. Every film can be broken down into a three-act structure. There’s an inciting incident to kick things off, a great challenge to overcome, a final struggle and, at last a resolution – most commonly positive, but not always.
The further I dove into stories, the deeper the matrix went. Author and professor, Joseph Campbell, studied mythology throughout recorded human history and concluded that all share a common thread – he calls it the Hero’s Journey (monomyth) and one of the best examples of it is, well, 1977’s Star Wars.
To be human is to be a storyteller. It is our shared currency as humans – transcending history, language, culture, geography, well you get the picture. It turns out that stories matter a whole lot to us humans. We crave stories not just as entertainment but also as a lens for making sense of our lives.
I used to worry that studying storytelling would ruin stories for me. Surprisingly, quite the opposite has happened – because outside of the formulas and archetypes, I now have a greater respect for the nuance in all our stories and I better appreciate what a gift others offer to us as the receivers of their stories.
I am also learning, slowly but surely, what it looks like to apply this same respect and grace to my own story. Brene Brown writes, “The most difficult part of our stories is often what we bring to them—what we make up about who we are and how we are perceived by others. Yes, maybe we failed or screwed up a project, but what makes that story so painful is what we tell ourselves about our own self-worth and value.”
What would it look like to invite Jesus into our stories? Not just into our lives – but our stories too. Into the very core of who we are and who we understand and believe ourselves to be in this world? I’m still learning to let Jesus into mine and what a richer story it is already becoming.
Chris Bowman Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash