So far we’ve gone over the fact that underdogs make great main characters in stories, and that they’re made of courage. All of that is well and good when we’re talking about Zelda and Lord of the Rings, but what does an underdog’s plight look like in real life?
Barna published a book a few years back entitled UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity…and why it matters. The book was based on national surveys of non-Christians, and the shocker was that most people who knew Christians said they were hypocritical, too political, and out of touch with the world. Christianity looks bland to observers. Our faith has become a ritual, a religion, simply because we don’t challenge ourselves.
I sincerely believe that average people, especially Christians, need to be more ready to face conflict like underdogs ready to conquer. It is because of comfort zones that so many people live what they would call boring lives.
Francis Chan addressed this issue of comfort when he preached using the visual aid of a balance beam. Literally, the pastor prepared by setting up a gymnastics beam on the stage where he was going to speak. After removing his shoes, Chan mounted the beam and explained that many Christians tend to, instead of doing crazy stunts, hold on to the beam. Clutching the beam, he proceeded to say that we often live as safely as possible.
Keep in mind the image of someone straddling a balance beam. A gymnast risks falling so she can show skill – it would be strange to see the opposite: risking skillful performance for the sake of safety by clinging to the beam. Yet this is what so many of us do with our lives. When a comfortable position in life is found, we tend to hold on to it, losing sight of what courage can do for us. Kids in my generation are taught by our parents, “if it hurts, don’t do it.” I just have to wonder if that’s the key to living a powerful life. When I look at my favorite stories, the heroes and heroines are those with the highest stakes, the greatest adversity. What makes them heroic is not clinging to comfort, it’s in striving to conquer the giants that their stories include.
Donald Miller wrote, “If the stuff we are doing with our lives wouldn’t make a movie meaningful, it won’t make real life meaningful either…Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in…People love to have lived a good story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen…Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.”
All it takes to make my life into a great story is realizing that I have a story waiting to be told, if I’m courageous enough to embrace it.