Context, back-story and knowing God

This is a guest post by Mitchell Hailstone, a student at King’s College in New York City:

“I heard once that they’d rather hear about memories than enemies. Rather hear about what was or what will be, rather than what is. Rather hear how you got it or how much it cost you. Rather hear about finding yourself or how you lost you. Rather make this an open letter about family and struggle and it taking forever, about hearts that you’ve broken and ties that you’ve severed. No doubt in my mind, that’ll make them feel better.”

Your Story ContextThis is a quote from Aubrey Graham, a popular rap artist who goes by the acronym Drake (Do Right and Kill Everything). His poetry might be an odd way to start a piece about taking on God’s perspective, but it might also be perfect. In this monologue located at the end of his popular track “Headlines” from the album Take Care, Drake reveals his strategy when writing compelling pieces: give listeners the whole perspective. You don’t merely tell someone what you’re feeling; you also tell them why you’re feeling it and the back-story leading you to your present situation.

His technique is a fundamental aspect of effective storytelling. In order to understand the present situation, a backdrop of narrative needs to be given. Only then will the listener fully appreciate and revel in the current circumstance with Drake. Why does Drake do this? He’s allowing his audience to get to know him. He’s opening up. He’s sharing his story, his emotions, his thoughts, his struggles with his listeners. He’s building a relationship with his fans. Of course, Drake isn’t breaking a lot of ground here, but he goes further than most in terms of the amount of reality he conveys in his songs. His songs are gritty, honest, dramatic, brooding, haughty, depressing, uplifting, and emotional. The bluntness and depth of his songs penetrates the listeners’ imagination. They gain a desire to know Drake more, and be a part of the narrative that he lays out.

In some sense, we use the same technique when we build friendships. This is what people do with their spouses, family, coworkers, and roommates. We get to know the other person’s narrative. We piece together the story of their life so that we can better understand the deeper meaning of their present circumstance. Your friend’s background and your friend’s future dreams inform your view of his/her present life. When your friend finally gets that job in NASA that you’ve watched him toil over, you rejoice more. You saw and felt his struggle, so you almost feel the same excitement he does in his success. Knowing his full narrative, the past and the desire for the future, allowed you to understand the meaning of the present.

Just like it is impossible to appropriately understand your friend’s current circumstance without context, it is also impossible to look at your own life without the appropriate context. Christians have anxiety and worry about their current circumstance. They look at the scope of their life and become confused. This anxiety could be found in something as little as your reaction to someone treating you poorly, or something as large as a job not working out. It could be a severed relationship, or a bad grade. In Psalm 37, God reveals that “the steps of a man are established by the Lord.” For God knows and understands the full context of each man’s scenarios. He says to Job in chapter 37: “Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (explain what God is doing by asking this question) We know that God is outside of time and has all the hairs of your head numbered (Matthew 10:30). After all, the sovereign Creator must know his creation. He’s existed before the world began and thus knows our context more than any friend.

But, life with God doesn’t end with Him knowing us. God wants us to know Him as well. We are to take on the perspective of the Lord. God tells us in Ezekiel 36 that he gives us a new heart and a new spirit. These allow us, with the Word as a guide, to take on that all-knowing perspective of God. In this way, believers and those who put their trust in God are equipped to understand their life circumstance and the current situations around them in the proper perspective. This is what we call wisdom – knowing and acting according the big picture or the proper perspective. This is fundamental and imperative to the Christian life because it functions as liberation from the entrapments of the world’s ways. His rules and teachings are the proper way of living, and thus give the most life, joy, and freedom. Present circumstance suddenly loses its prominence. We know that each of us sins and destroys God’s plan. We know that throughout history, man has rebelled against God’s ways and created destruction. At the same time, God is active in redeeming the consequences of our sin. He also promises and gives us a dream of a future day in which we will be restored to our initial glory. Therefore, we are not presently surprised by others sin or our own. We know that despite the bad things happening to us, God invites us to a perfect future with him after this life. We will know that his promises are good and always fulfilled!

Imagine what would happen if everyone lived with God’s perspective as the informer of their present. Each person would be loved and taken care of. Love and acceptance would prevail over hate and fear. Anxiety would not exist, for we would take to heart God’s promises. Churches wouldn’t fall to pride and faction. Politicians would perform their duties for the benefit of society and not themselves. Businesses would be run honestly and efficiently. There are countless possibilities for restoration.. Alas, it is not possible as long as our rebellion lasts.

Like Drake, knowing the context and background of God’s character and relationships with the world is a pretty potent and engaging story. It is filled with honesty, grittiness, drama, haughtiness, conflict, and resolution. But unlike Drake, this is the God of the universe. His story and perspective will unlock truth, and has the possibility of changing the world. Tell the story, and surely people will listen.