Based On True Events
By Anthony Casperson

Movies that have those little words, “This film is based on true events,” tend to turn me off. I find it difficult to truly enjoy these types of movies because of their tendency to be predictable. Almost inevitably, the main character will get their love interest. Or the team will win the championship in the final minutes of the game. Or the person will overcome incredible hardships to become some great humanitarian.

The real-life stories that people feel will inspire others tend to come fall into very predetermined parameters. Nobody’s gonna make a movie about a life-long blue-collar worker who does his job everyday, love his family, and does nothing out of the ordinary.

Don’t get me wrong. There are movies based on true events where the team loses, or some tragedy leaves the person in a harsh circumstance, and I tend to like those movies more. But even then, there’s a block of words at the end stating how they won next year, or the person still continues to do the things that they loved despite the difficulties. We want to see the story end in a success. Or at least what we consider to be a success.

But I think that this type of understanding for what “success” is doesn’t do us a favor when it comes to our own lives, to the things that we’re passionate about. What do I mean by this? Well, let me tell you a story.

I was reading a book that my friend recommended to me. One thread woven throughout the book was about the author’s journey in making a previous book of his into a movie. When he got to the end of the book, he wrote about how it was difficult to raise money for the movie. People said they would help produce the project, but would eventually pull their funding.

That is until a couple of people helped them get their project onto Kickstarter. They quickly raised the money that they needed to get the rest of their funding. And by the time their Kickstarter campaign ended, they had raised the most amount of funds for a movie at the time.

When I got to that part of the book, I went on a dangerous, less-than-a-minute roller coaster ride concerning this. At first, I thought, “Good for them. That’s a good story to inspire others.” But then, I took a nosedive in the depths so quickly, the pressure began to crush my soul. My mind went to a place of, “Man, I’ll never be that successful. I don’t even know who Brushstrokes of a Theonerd is currently reaching. Or if it’ll ever even help anybody. Am I just recording sermons to take up kilobytes of a server somewhere?”

In a matter of milliseconds, I went from feeling pretty good about serving God as I have been for several months now, to deeply depressed. And it was all because I read the success of someone else’s true story. I was basing my own success off of how I compared to this other author who had good intentions to inspire others to live a good story.

But an alternate thought came to my head almost as quickly as the depressionary one did. I thought about how I categorize success. I’m doing what I believe God has called me to. And even if no one else is ever helped by the words that I write, it’s helped me grow closer to God.

See, we tend to base success off of how well our project of passion is received, or how many followers we have, or how much money is raised to support it. But success doesn’t mean that. Not true success. True success is based off of how much you grow in the process. When you can’t see how your passion is received, and those few followers you did have disappeared in the night, and your Patreon account still hasn’t raised a cent, but you still continue on, that proves success.

Success isn’t about being unmarred in your journey, or even about getting back up when you fall on an otherwise clear day. True success is about being willing to keep moving when everything is telling you to stop. It’s a willingness to view the grand successes of stories told about others and realizing that even if you never accomplish what you set out to do, even if nobody will ever be inspired by the “true events” of your life, you have succeeded as long as you continued to move toward the passions God has placed within you.

The only people who fail are the ones who give up, who quit trying to reach for the grand desires God has placed within them. Failure isn’t about not completing your passions. Failure means that your soul has atrophied from lack of pursuing your passions.

It doesn’t matter if your success isn’t remembered as well as someone else’s. We who are followers of Jesus aren’t in a competition, as if whoever is remembered for the greatest deeds are given more love or grace or mercy. We all receive the same love, grace, and mercy as each other regardless of how well we’re remembered. We’re successful in our call as long as we move in the direction God has called us.

One of my favorite characters from the Old Testament appears in a single verse: Judges 3:31. “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel.” We know, for some reason, he used an oxgoad, a long, pointy stick used to get cattle to move, as a weapon. (From where I sit as I write this, I can see the oxgoad I made for a project for my Old Testament History class in bible college.) And we know he killed 600 Philistines with that goad. Nothing else is noted for him, though the book of judges seems to place him in the leadership role of judge after Ehud the Benjamite. We don’t know much of his life, but he is considered, even if for just one verse, a success in God’s eyes.

Shamgar was called by God to take care of these idolatrous Philistines, but is often overlooked by people when it comes to Old Testament characters. He was no less of a success than someone else who took on hundreds of Philistines, namely King David. Just because David is remembered by many, even those who aren’t that biblically literate, doesn’t mean that he is more of a success than Shamgar, whose name you might not have ever heard of before reading this.

If we start basing how successful we are off of other people’s successes, we’ll eventually get to the point where we won’t want to move forward anymore, because we’ll “never be that successful.” Letting the success of others be the guide of our own feeling of success can cause what should be inspirational to become the thing that kills our passion.

Your life isn’t based off of the true events of someone else’s life. Be inspired by the great deeds of others, but don’t make their success be your guide. Let God use your passions to guide you into the success he has called you into.