The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND… to me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
(Tina Fey, Bossypants)
I love stories. I love hearing about heroes, conflict, growth, redemption, victory, and love. I especially love hearing true stories, stories of peoples’ origins, struggles, and family. Stories are how we understand ourselves. When we describe ourselves to new acquaintances, we don’t describe our dimensions! We tell stories. Stories are how we understand our world, each other, and even things beyond our understanding.
As Christians, we are a people of a particular story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, filled with dynamic and round characters, conflicts that rise to universal levels, plot twists, danger, and surprising climax. What’s more, this story that we are a part of, the story of God and the World, is not a story that we just listen to. We participate in this story; we live this story; we act in this story. In that case, this story is more like a drama that we act in, and less like a story we merely listen to.
Think back to your high school English classes. Remember learning Shakespeare? The layout of a five-act play? I like to think about the history of the world and the story of God as a five-act play. Act 1 is the introduction of the characters and conflict. In Act 2, the conflict rises and its effects spread. Act 3 is the climax, the turning point. In Act 4, the effects of the climax take shape and spread. Finally, Act 5 is the resolution, where the conflict is laid to final rest. So, in the story of God, the story that we play in, Act 1 is creation, Act 2 is God’s work through Israel, Act 3 is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, Act 4 is the Church, and Act 5 is the Kingdom Coming. We are Act 4. We are part of the effect of the Cross and the unraveling of injustice and death in our world. We live and act in ways that spread the news and the reality of God’s love in this world. We are Act 4.
But there’s something different about the play that we live in. The script is not set in stone. Because God has bound himself to us in a loving and faithful relationship, God has given us freedom to love and to choose how we will love. In this way, there’s a great deal of improvisation in Act 4. We have been invited to add our own ideas and talents to the story in our own unique ways. We are responsible to dream how our part ought to be played, to write with God, to create with God, and to act out the story with God. It is improv. Now, improv does not mean “do whatever you want!” There is a skill, there is practice, there is study. To improvise the Christian life well, we have to know what happened on stage before we came on, we have to know the direction the story is heading, we have to act alongside others on stage, and we have to be open to direction.
To help each other live out the Christian life together (to act together), we will be taking a look at the “five acts” of the Story of God. This September, we are going to take a closer look at Act 1: Creation. Let’s reintroduce ourselves to the characters and conflict in this great story that we live in today. Join us for a different look at the Creator, and what it means to be created. As you continue to work out your faith and how it impacts the way you live, remember that you are part of a greater story being told, and trust me, it has a good good end.