One of my favourite scriptures is in Hebrews, Chapter 12:
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners in order that you might not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
When I tell people how much I love this passage, oftentimes I receive a negative or confused response. Of all the Scriptures, how could this one–so in-your-face, so not-uplifting–be on of my faves? There are many reasons why, but two sift to the top. One, because it is so in-your-face. St. Paul is basically saying, “You think you’re suffering in whatever hardship you’re going through? Well, you ain’t suffered much in comparison to Christ, so get over it.” Sometimes we need a little coddling, but sometimes we need that startling in-your-face, shut-up-and-take notice reality-check. I talk to myself like this all the time when I begin to slip into pity-party mode, so I guess having the great evangelist speak in the same way was rather…comforting. I happen to like stark reminders. It’s one of the reasons I keep a crucifix around. Contemplating a crucifix helps to keep me grounded. Helps to keep my hardships in perspective the way an empty cross does not. In my mind, the crucifix and this scripture are directly connected. They serve as reminders to endure gracefully because He’s endured much more than we. Yes, St.Paul didn’t mince words, but the reminder to turn one’s thoughts to the “other” rather than the “self” is a great one, even if it is in-your-face. (Hang in there. This post really does pertain to writing.)
Another reason I love this Scripture is because it’s so uplifting (Yes, I know, completely opposite to what I’ve been told.) Why is it uplifting? Because it’s an excellent illustration of how much Christ loves you and me. “Consider how he endured…” and why? “In order you [and I] might not grow weary and lose heart.” He endured in order for us to understand the merits of suffering, and to give us an example of how to endure. That’s uplifting! An encouragement. If He could endure such opposition for me, the least I can do is try not to lose zeal or fall into a depression over whatever hardship or obstacle is thrown my way. How ungrateful–or at least, unmindful–would I be if I focused on my own tribulations so much that I lost sight of what He did for me?
We know Jesus is perfect–the perfect lover, the perfect friend, the perfect saviour…the perfect hero. But this Scripture says it in a way we can apply not only to our lives but also to our writing. Jesus is the perfect soulmate (no pun intended). What girl doesn’t want a guy who is willing to endure–well, anything–for her? And beyond that, what strength of character is shown through sacrifice? (As exhorted in the first part of the scripture.) What strength of character is exemplified in someone who perseveres without wallowing in self-pity or dwelling on the negative? What delight of will to turn away from self, focus on the other, and recognize the blessing? (as exhorted in the latter part of the scripture) These are heroic traits that we should keep in mind as we form our plots and flesh out our heroes and heroines. Our heroes/heroines should always be someone who:
Triumphs over conflict
Optimistic (even if it’s a struggle for them to be so),
Humble (which is not a synonym for weak. Jesus is humble in His humanity, but definitely not weak.)…
all traits we find ourselves reminded of in this short passage from the Letter to the Hebrews. Now, this isn’t to say that our heroes can’t lapse into self-pity or pessimism, or any of the other “opposites” to these good things, but at heart, they must always hold on to virtue; and when our heroes fall, they should return to virtue posthaste, looking to the sufferings of Christ as a boost from within the wallows. We want our characters to be three-dimensional, well-rounded–which means negative and positive emotion–but we’re also writing fiction, which means, even though in “real” life people sometimes fall short of heroism, we can choose to have our heroes ultimately exemplify the very best of humanity, and in this way to serve as an example that overcoming obstacles is possible–even in real life. . .now, how should we write our villains? Well, that’s another post entirely!
Happy writing, everyone.