|Christianbook.com: Why is it so important for us to wonder "what sort of a tale" we've fallen into?|
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John Eldredge: I think that life is just confusing for most people. They really don't know how to connect the dots. The questions abound. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my time? Why do the desires of my heart seem so far removed from the reality of my life? Then you throw into that suffering, personal loss and the heartaches that come to any person's life and after a while most of us end up feeling confused.
We have the big truths, that God exists, that He loves us, that Christ has come and heaven is out there somewhere. But in our lives, I think we're lost. The point would be that you really can't understand your life and you can't understand another person's life until you hear their story, unless you listen carefully to the story of their life. The same holds true for life itself, life with a capital 'L,' you can't really understand this Life we're living unless you understand the rest of the story. In other words, story is the nature of the reality that we live in. I think that's actually a new thought for a lot of people. We've tried to sort of solve our confusion with tips and techniques, principles, a truth here or a proposition there, but it doesn't really work. I'm suggesting that we'll get a whole lot farther down the road to clarity or understanding if we look at things through the lens of story.
|Christianbook.com: How is the Epic story of the gospel readily evident in other great stories, including movies like Gladiator or Titanic? |
John Eldredge: My premise is this: you really can't write a story, a good story that holds together and speaks to the human heart in any deep way, unless you borrow from God's story. The nature of humanity and the things that we long for such as love, heroism and sacrifice, were put on our heart by God (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). You really can't write a good story without borrowing from God's story. So if you pay attention to any of the powerful, contemporary films such as Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings series, you realize that you can't create a gripping story without, consciously or unconsciously, telling God's story. I don't think a lot of these screenwriters are aware of what they're doing, but I think the success of "Titanic" is based entirely on the fact that it parallels the gospel. The love story, the ship going down in tragedy, he dies so that she might liveÖwe want to be loved like that, we want to be rescued like that and we want to live in a story like that. It resonates with us.
|Christianbook.com: What does the story we are living teach us about the storyteller?|
John Eldredge: Yeah, that's a great question. You can learn a lot about an author by the stories that he or she tells. Take Edgar Allan Poe, who must have been a tortured soul to come up with the dark poetry and stories that he did. Good grief, what a wreck! So you can learn a great deal about a person's heart through the stories they tell.
Take someone like C.S. Lewis. We can learn something about his imagination, his heart and what he values as we read Narnia. We see his love for heroism, nobility and friendship by reading his stories. Likewise, I think we learn a lot about the heart of God by the story he is telling. One of the things we quickly discover is that he is not the head of IBM. He is not merely a brain or merely the mind behind the universe. He has a heart! He loves the kind of things we love. He loves romance, courage, humility and friendship. You really begin to discover the 'heartness' of God through the story of Scripture. I think this is really helpful for those of us who tend to think of Him as someone seated on a throne far away or someone who seems to be playing chess with the universe.
|Christianbook.com: You remind us that the gospel, like every great story, hinges upon a remarkable rescue from evil and death. You then go on to explain that that "rescuing the human heart is the hardest mission in the world." Why is this so?|
John Eldredge: Yes, it really, really is. Part of the reason for that is the nature of the human heart. Take addiction as an example of that. When we give our hearts away to something, whether itís a drug or alcohol substance, another person or a career, our hearts get entangled with them. It takes a really delicate kind of surgery to disentangle the heart from its addictions without wounding or hurting the heart. So that period of disentanglement can be a period of great turmoil for a person as they let go of what they thought would bring them life. It can involve grief, anger, fear, and doubts of where to turn now that one doesn't have that comforter. That process of disentanglement is really quite difficult.
Imagine adding to that to the fact that God doesn't want to violate our will. That he wants, very much, to disentangle our hearts from all the things we've given our hearts away to while at the same time wooing our hearts to find their life, security and safe place in Him.
Add to that, the fact that the enemy doesn't want to see people set free. He doesn't want to see humanity made whole. He hates us and the fact that we bear the image of God and the glory of God. So he's involved trying to thwart the process. So you have these three things going on: our complete entanglement in the things we've given our hearts to, God's immense kindness that doesn't want to violate our will as he comes after our hearts and the enemies role in trying to stop it all. It gets pretty messy!
|Christianbook.com: The restoration of the Kingdom is a part of the story that Christians often forget. Why is it important for Christians not only to look backward towards the cross, but also forward to the final revelation of God's Kingdom?|
John Eldredge: Because, bottom line, without hope you have nothing to live for. The French, Christian philosopher Gabriel Marcel said that 'hope is to the soul as breathing is to the body.' We've been holding our breath for a long time. Most people do not live with a great deal of hope because the images Christianity offers, beyond forgiveness, are really not that clear and engaging. Whether itís the never-ending church service, or however they conceive of heaven, the fact is that we often do not give people a compelling reason to live.
I find it stunning that the early church, as historian Kenneth Clarke points out, that the cross was not used as a focal point for the first 400 years of Christianity. The cross was not on their churches, it wasn't hung around their necks and it wasn't on their Bibles. Their focus was not upon the cross, but on the resurrection. The resurrection was their focus because of the hope, the life and the power of restoration that it offers. Then you look closely at the miracles of Jesus and they're all basically acts of restoration, the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised. The promise of a life restored is the great beauty of the gospel! It is the great promise! I think that has been completely stolen from us and it leaves us with a very small thing: forgiveness. We have forgiveness and we are grateful for it, but it is not enough. If that's all we have we must seek life elsewhere. Where is the life we are created for?
Let me add a couple more thoughts. The goal of Christianity is to restore humanity. To be a Christian is to be in the process of being restored to your full humanity, including your creativity, your passions, and your ability to love and be loved. If we offered that in our churches we would see a tremendous work going on and a great appeal to those who are seeking restoration. It would do a lot for our evangelism in other words.
Then you take that one step further and you seek the restoration of all that is good, true and beautiful whether it is in the arts or sciences, in our communities and neighborhoods. Christianity is not just offering the world the hope of a sweet by-and-by, but is offering the world the power of ongoing restoration.
|Christianbook.com: Your hope is that this book will help revolutionize the church's approach to evangelism. How can a thorough understanding of a friend or loved one's story help us share the gospel of Christ more effectively? |
John Eldredge: It's two things. First off, you can't find where a person has lost heart until you listen to their story. So you don't really know how to bring Jesus to them. The gospel will feel irrelevant, abstract and not applicable to their lives. But if you listen to the story of their life and listen to where they have lost heart, where they have not found love, not found life, not found peace, then with understanding and compassion you can minister Christ much more personally and relevantly to people. But also, if you simply listen to the longings of their hearts, even by asking them about the movies they love, you can help them discover for themselves that they really do long for the gospel. That is a much more natural and helpful way to begin talking about the things of God. Second, once you have listened to the longings of their heart you can show them that everything they love and are longing for is exactly what Christianity offers.
|Christianbook.com: John, you do an excellent job of exploring the gospel story and showing how it intersects with the story of our lives. What additional resources would you recommend to those who are inspired by Epic and interested in developing a deeper understanding of story?|
John Eldredge: That's why we built www.epicreality.com. That's a website that helps them explore both believers and unbelievers explore the themes of epic. The site unfolds like a fairy-tale book and you choose chapters such as "Tell Me More About the Story" and "Tell Me More About the True Author of the Story." This helps people explore not only the story, but also their role in the story.
There are also recommended resources on the site, such as C.S. Lewis' thoughts on story, G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and Dan Allender's thoughts on understanding your story. Quite simply, we built that site to offer more.
|Christianbook.com: Would you like to offer a word of encouragement to those who are desperately trying to live out this Epic and sometimes find it hard to believe in a happy ending?|
John Eldredge: The reason that we doubt the happy ending is found in the story of our own lives. It is rooted in our own disappointments, setbacks and heartbreaks. You have to go there. The answers are not located somewhere out in the future. Rather, our deep fear, hurt, suspicions and doubts are rooted in the stories of our own lives. You can't neglect those things. That's where you lost heart. You have to go back and invite Christ to walk with you through those times, periods and places where you lost heart, so that you might experience the restoration we've been talking about. In other words, what I'm suggesting is that we take Jesus up on his offer. He says that what he wants to do is heal the brokenhearted. That's all of us! We are all, in some ways, broken in our hearts and we need to experience that restoration so that we might hope, believe and be released from resignation, depression and cynicism that are rooted in our hearts. Those latter things are rooted in our hearts because of the stories of our lives. The offer is to invite Christ to walk with us there towards healing and restoration.
|Christianbook.com: What part of life's story are you exploring in your next book?|
John Eldredge: There are actually two books under way. My wife and I just finished a book for women that picks up where Wild at Heart left off, but from a woman's point of view. It explores how a woman's heart functions in this dangerous world, how she finds healing and restoration of her femininity and what it is God wants when he offers freedom for women. That will come out in the Spring of 2005.
The next thing that I'm after is a return to the masculine journey. Particularly, I'm interested in the initiation process by which a man discovers that he is one. Whether he's 15 or 65 he still needs to take that journey. So how do we offer initiation of God to young men and how do we experience it as older men?
Christianbook.com: John, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. We hope that Epic helps millions of believers both develop a deeper understanding of and live out their role in the greatest story!
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