Edgar Allen Poe created fiction that defined a genre. He made the literary rounds of his time, eventually dying mysteriously in the city of Baltimore and starting a tradition where followers would leave a black rose on his grave for the anniversary of his death. I have a Collected Works of Poe on my bookshelf.
When he ventured into writing about writing itself, he gave us the idea of suspension of disbelief. It was the dividing line when a reader gives in to a story no matter the content. The lovers cause your heart to race, the stormy night makes the corners a little darker, and the fanciful world seems like it is just outside your door.
Think of your favorite book or movie.
Odds are it is a story with a quick suspension of disbelief. Whether a space opera, teen post apocalyptic fantasy, or guy building a baseball field to connect with his dead father. The themes of great stories cross over into our lives and provide an escape that keep us coming back to turn the page or see the movie just one more time.
Maybe you went to a job you don’t like, clocked in and out, and drove home to go through the motions. Maybe your spouse or loved one didn’t acknowledge you when you walked through the door, the house is a mess, the cushions are off the couch for the 1000th time as portable gym mats while your kids do flips from the couch (not that I speak from experience, or anything).
Maybe the paycheck arrived and it is already spent. The student loans pile up. The lenders are calling and the car is two months behind an oil change, but getting one means taking time you don’t have and money you don’t have.
So something has to suffer.
How do we learn to love our own stories?
Embrace the characters- Your circle will expand and contract as the years pass. People come and go but some will stay forever. Find those who make your life full; the dreamers and visionaries, the creatives and the ones that make you laugh. Find joy and the hearts it inhabits. Bring these people close and, when you do, look out for others who could use some joy in their own lives. Expand your circle and make a difference.
Embrace the conflict- It will not always be clear or easy. Some of the most powerful conflict has shifting lines of allegiance. In one of my favorite novels, The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, the conflict is between the author, his lover, and her husband. All sides falter and the humanity of the characters draws you in. When conflict comes, you have two choices. You can run or fight. There is no other option. I tend to procrastinate and, really, it is only another form of running. As the saying goes, if you aren’t moving forward you are falling behind. Always keep moving forward.
Embrace the crescendo– The hero is down on the mat and the ref is counting to ten. The bases are loaded with two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The big presentation is due and the PowerPoint file is corrupted.
Thunder sounds over a trio of crosses on a hill so many years ago.
You’ll know when it happens. We are all called to a crescendo, to a taste of the edge, to the point where all seems lost. We are called to suffering.
That may make some uncomfortable. It is not a popular message in a world of quick fixes, success strategies, coaching courses and prosperity ministries. You won’t find too many graphics at the local Christian book store with the phrase behind an artistic sunrise print.
We suffer because we are being refined as part of the Greatest Story Ever Told. We suffer because we follow the one who went before us.
We suffer because we are called to do great things, to change lives and spark a movement that will electrify the world.
You may be facing a crescendo right now as you read this.
If you are, I pray you find courage to stand and be in the moment. I pray you love your story and walk forward with suspension of disbelief. As you wake tomorrow, look with new eyes and know you are a part of something so much bigger. Embrace the flow of the story, the characters and the conflict and start writing your own fresh pages.