Character Arc, according to the wisdom well that is Wikipedia, is the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the storyline. Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes. If you were to consider your life as a storyline, with a distinct beginning, middle and end, and yourself as a character in that story, what kind of transformation are you experiencing? How arced is that Character Arc of yours?
Probably best known for his book Blue LIke Jazz, Donald Miller presents the concept of understanding our lives through the lens of story in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand. It’s not a hard read, but a good one, full of golden nuggets that will have you looking into the mirror and asking some provocative questions.
It’s in our nature to seek out comfort and avoid pain, discomfort and even inconvenience. We lead safe lives and write mundane stories with our lifetime by solely focusing on what we want and overlooking the journey. Miller muses that perhaps “we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change”. Without change, it’s not really a story worth living.
But we avoid challenges. We buy multivitamins, insurance plans and work in jobs that leave us uninspired in order to pay bills for things that don’t give us life. It’s in our nature to seek out comfort and it often requires some near cataclysmic event to force change into our lives. We’re inspired by survivor stories, yet we leave no room in our lives for survivor experiences.
God isn’t a jerk. He takes us on journeys, sometimes incredibly hard journeys, to bring us out the other side better than we went in. This doesn’t stop the hurting, the confusion or the chaos – but it provides some perspective. The lifestyle we’ve chosen can be rough at times – ok, sometimes it feels like it just sucks – but when we look at who we are today, we cannot imagine our lives without the path we’ve walked. Each challenge, every victory and loss has shaped us. We’re nowhere close to arriving, but what a journey it has been.