Tag: truth

Truth is in the story


Take a moment to re-think the story told in John 4. You remember, it’s the well-side conversation between Jesus and an unnamed Samaritan woman. Beginning with a simple, inciting question. Jesus asked, “Will you give me a drink?”

Thus begins an involved conversation designed to introduce Jesus as the Messiah. If either of them had been PC about it, this conversation would never have happened. A Jewish man would not be caught dead talking to an unnamed woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman.

But, Jesus was not known for being politically correct.

Samaritans from the town heard her story and invited Jesus to stay with them for a while. He did and the story grew—many become believers.

What began as an ordinary request for a drink of water, resulted in changed lives and many new believers.

That question was what Robert McKee calls, an “inciting event.” It gives birth to story. The story is much more than a good description, or a collection of interesting characters, story is the creative unveiling of truth. It is the living proof of an idea, the conversion of idea to action.

Essential to the development of every story is risk. The risk of time, of money, of people, of position, or the risk of being found out. Without risk there is no story.

That’s why the life of Jesus is a story, not a journal or collection of descriptive passages. It is all about risk. He lived to save us long before we realized we needed saving, much less be interested in HIM as a savior. That’s the ultimate risk.

Now that we have heard the story, we find ourselves transformed by it. We identify. Of course there is always our backstory that limits us and tethers us and destroys us. The backstory can be so messy, so real, so unexpected, that if we let it, we simply walk away, refusing to risk anything. The Samaritan’s took the risk, truth was found, and belief was born.


The “inciting event” for faith is set in the backstory, a context of complications and emotions. The 80’s film, Ordinary People, provides a great example.

The film opens with Conrad (Timothy Hutton) coming home from a psychiatric hospital, presumable cured of his suicidal problems. Calvin, the father (Donald Sutherland), feels that the family has survived its crisis-time and balance has been restored.

The next morning Conrad, in a grim mood, sits opposite his father at the breakfast table. Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) puts a plate of French toast under her son’s face. He refuses to eat. She snatches the plate away, marches to the sink, and scrapes his breakfast down the  garbage disposal, mattering: “You can’t keep French toast.”

You can see the pain on Calvin’s face as he realizes the problems have not been fixed. In fact, nothing has been fixed.

We need the backstory to understand the context, the embedded problems facing this family. The difficulties seem to stem from the death of Conrad’s older brother who died in a storm at sea. Conrad survived, but felt guilty. But, that is not the dark secret. This movie is not about relieving Conrad’s guilt, nor is about chronicling Calvin’s longing for the family to be fixed. It’s about Beth’s secret.

The truth hidden inside the complicated layers of drama is that Beth never wanted two boys, she feels she can only love one. Her love was snuffed out with son who died at sea. The truth is all she can feel for Conrad is hate and contempt…and she has felt that since his birth.

It all comes together when Calvin confronts her. She must learn to love Conrad or leave. Beth goes to the closet, packs a suitcase, and heads out the door. She cannot face her inability to love her son. The backstory is too powerful. For her, the risk is too great.

Truth has been revealed. But, no one is transformed.


First, where does your story begin? What is your inciting event? It can be a question, a touch, a crisis, an injury, or any unexpected happening.

Second, what risks are in your story? Are you seeking truth? No risk—no story. The story of transformed lives in Samaria was radical; it involved major risk, after all Jesus broke the mold, He was mysteriously different than expected, and more powerful than any backstory. Is your backstory keeping you from truth, or leading you to it?

Third, get on with it. This is not a movie; it’s real life, the only life you have. And, please don’t walk away.

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August 5, 2012 | 0 Comments More