Changing Roles, Consistent Truth
By Anthony Casperson
Hero, sidekick, love interest, foil, mentor, and a whole host more. When it comes to a story, there are many different roles that characters take. Though when we become invested in a story, we tend to feel a certain connection with one particular character. There’s something in that person that reminds us of ourselves or that we wish we could be.
However, what I’ve noticed while getting older is that the characters with whom I’ve related have slowly shifted from one role to another. While growing up, I was intrigued with the heroes. The young, naïve, headstrong nobody who comes from Nowheresville. The purpose of the hero of the story is to draw in the usually younger audience into the adventure they wish their lives would become. These are the Luke Skywalkers, the Harry Potters, the Frodo Bagginses, the Kvothes.
After having some actual life experience, the thrill of being the hero subsided. Partially, it comes from realizing that I’ve gotten further from being the age of the young hero. (Though don’t get me wrong, some heroes are older than the late teens/early twenties that most heroic characters are. Frodo was 33 at the opening of The Lord of the Rings, and he didn’t start the adventure until he was 50.) Also partially, it comes from growing in wisdom through the adventures I’ve already partaken in. Drifting further from the hero, I’ve become connected to the companion characters that fall into the role of foil.
A foil is a character that highlights the hero’s strengths and weaknesses through an opposing characteristic. While a villain can be a foil, like Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter, the foils I tend to connect with are companions of the hero. Typically a little more astute when it comes to the ways of the world, the foil tends to be both older and more on the side of jaded-ness when compared to the hero. Han Solo has traveled the galaxy and believes only in his own skills, which opposes Luke’s farmboy nature and trust in the Force. And Kvothe’s university pals, Simmon and Wilem, hold the teachings of the university as something that will be learned in time as opposed to Kvothe’s desire to master everything immediately.
It’s because of my experiences that draw me to those who have already had some adventures and now share that experience to others. I guess eventually I’ll end up relating to the mentors, those who have had many adventures of their own and now that they are old and gray will pass on the secrets of the world to others. But I have a little while until then, hopefully.
But what does this have to do with anything? Well, I think the best storytellers have a variety of characters so that their stories can be held dear by a variety of people and throughout the ever-changing adventure of their lives. As one who tells the story of God redeeming his creation, this is an important concept to keep in mind. The proclamation of the bible should not just focus on newer believers who are ready for adventure. Nor should it land solely on the people who have experienced some of the Christian life and might be a little burnt out. And the proclamation shouldn’t be only to the people who are ready to pass on their experiences before they go on the grandest of all adventures.
If we focus the story of redemption only to people in certain places in life, we will lose those who don’t fall in that category. And worse yet, we’ll not be true to the message of the word of God. The bible is masterful in its writing. It has this ability to speak one thing and yet say something to people in many stages of life. You can read a passage one time and feel the Spirit speaking to you about a particular idea. Then, a year or two later, you can read the same passage and have a message given to you that you didn’t see before. (As a side note, this mysterious layering of the scripture’s lessons is the very reason why I don’t mark up my bible. I don’t want to be thinking about the teachings I’ve already been given when there are further reaches of truth waiting to be revealed. But that’s just a personal preference.)
The truth of God is grand. It reaches further than any story ever could because it encapsulates every story ever told. And it teaches us about ourselves and our relationship with God. Think about your own life. Where are you in this adventure with God? Are you new to this whole thing? Have you been traveling for a little while and need to have someone remind you of the joys of the adventure? Are you ready to share experience with others? Wherever you are, as you move forward in this adventure, keep your eyes on the truth of the Master of storytelling. His guidance will always be relevant no matter your role.