Story, Discipleship, Blue Like Jazz on the Couch
Two weeks ago the three of us sat on the couch and discussed repentance and community. I've learned a lot about this kind of discipleship from my friend, Will Walker, who wrote Kingdom of Couches.I also happen to be reading Blue Like Jazz (I know, I am behind).
Both of these books do theology through the back door, to borrow another friend's phrase. They are unpretentious, unimpressive and yet manage to make some rather plain truths more accessible. Both are written almost stream-of-consciousness, but then you realize by the end of each chapter that the journey the author took you on was not only existential, but profoundly theological. Perhaps its theology for the postmodern, but I'd still like to get to the biblical meat of the matter in any given chapter.
So, as we were talking about repentance from nagging cryptomeism, I asked how we can escape our tendencies towards spiritual narcissim, with obsession with our own stories. Dave replied, "To open ourselves to God's story." I asked, "So what's God's story?" After some debate we agreed to pursue our answer along the lines of story, narrative structure (some of which I stole from N.T. Wright and Donald Miller, with a spin of my own). We determined that the setting is Creation, the plotline is Redemption, the Problem is the Fall, and the Climax is Jesus--as Redeemer and Restorer, the Cross and the New Creation. After agreeing that knowing the climax of God's story is critical to experiencing the impact of the divine narrative in our own lives, we considered what our functional climax is.
Is Jesus the climax of our stories? I felt like some days yes, and many days no...my functional climax is often me. I tend to approach Jesus from above, attempting to assert my own story over God's by mastering Christology or publishing on theology. By doing these things I feel good about myself. My identity is firmly placed in me, not the Story. My climax is me. The other guys had different answers, but we all found it helpful to rethink discipleship from the vantage point of our story vs. His Story.