Rewriting the Story

It’s not uncommon, when an author is writing a novel, or a filmmaker is preparing a movie, that the story will change before the final product hits the streets.

Sometimes it has something to do with the characters, sometimes it has something to do with the plot, but most of the time it has something to do with the ending. The creative forces behind the story take a second look and decide: This needs a better ending.

ROCKY

Rocky was Sylvester Stallone’s first big movie. He was not only the star, he wrote the script. However, his first version of the story was quite a bit different than the one that finally made its way into the theaters.

The biggest difference was that, in the original draft, Rocky didn’t just lose the fight to Apollo Creed, he threw the fight — for money — so that he could afford to purchase a pet shop for Adrian.

Stallone eventually realized that this is not something a noble character would do — and this particular twist doesn’t inspire a sequel — so the ending was changed.

STAR WARS

The Star Wars franchise has seen several changes along the way.

For example, Luke Skywalker’s name originally was Luke Starkiller. And the name of the third installment was originally Revenge of the Jedi, not Return of the Jedi.

There were even posters printed and a trailer prepared with that title, before it was officially changed. There are still “Revenge” posters floating around out there. You can buy an original on Ebay for a few thousand dollars, or you can buy a copy of the original at Wal-Mart for about ten dollars.

The biggest change in the third installment of the series is that George Lucas intended for Han Solo to die at the end. It’s been said that he changed the outcome because he was afraid that the death of Han Solo might negatively affect merchandising.

I don’t know about that, but it is true that the way the story ended — with the big Ewok gala — was more uplifting.

THE NEED FOR A REWRITE

I’m saying that sometimes the writer’s original idea for the story and the characters and the ending is not the same as the writer’s final idea. As it goes through edit upon edit, rewrite after rewrite, the story gets better, and stronger, and more meaningful.

This is why it could be said that great stories aren’t written, they’re rewritten. It takes more than one pass at a manuscript to get it right, to make it as good as it can be.

ONE SONG SAYS IT ALL

There’s an old Southern Gospel song that I love. The title says it all: Mercy Rewrote My Life. It tells about a man whose life was moving in the wrong direction, full of sin and confusion, heartache and despair, until he discovered God’s powerful grace, and “Mercy Rewrote My Life.”

It’s a song that everyone can sing, a story that each of us can tell.

This is the message of the Christmas season. It is the message of the gospel. God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to change the story of humankind, to rewrite history one life at a time, through his mercy and his grace.

Etched in Black and White

Last week’s Monday Memo (The Clanging of the Bell) told a story about Corrie Ten Boom’s struggle to forgive some friends who had taken advantage of her. Eventually, she forgave them to the extent that their friendship and fellowship were restored.

Many years later, an American friend who was familiar with the story came to visit her in Holland. They spent the evening together — Corrie, her American friend, and the ones with whom she had had the conflict.

At the end of the evening, as the group left, her friend asked, “Aren’t those the people who let you down?”

Corrie replied, (rather smugly, by her own admission), “Yes. You can see it’s all forgiven.”

And then she said, “But they still don’t see it like I see it. They still say there was nothing to forgive. They deny it ever happened. But I can prove it. I have it in black and white. I still have the letters and documents.”

Her friend paused for a moment, and then gently asked, “Corrie, aren’t you the one who said your sins are at the bottom of the sea? Why, then, are the sins of your friends still etched in black and white?

She could think of nothing to say, except, “Lord Jesus, forgive me for preserving — all these years — the evidence against others.”

Before she went to sleep that night, she removed those letters and documents from her desk and tossed them in the furnace.

Paul said that we are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. How does he forgive us?

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (Isaiah 43:25)

That’s our goal in forgiving others.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to leave the past in the past. When you forgive someone and let it go … when you make the deliberate choice to think of it never again … you set mercy in motion — in their life, and yours.

. . . . . . . . . . .

[Today’s post was adapted from Steve’s sermon: The Spark of Forgiveness.]

The Clanging of the Bell

Many years after her release from a concentration camp, and after The Hiding Place had become an international best-seller, Corrie Ten Boom found herself in a situation where she was taken advantage of by some Christian friends whom she loved and trusted.

It was an emotionally devastating ordeal for her. She struggled with the ability to forgive, even though their offense was small in comparison to what she had suffered from the Nazis.

Again and again she resolved to put it behind her … but the resentment kept coming back. She would often lay awake late at night, rehashing all that had happened, fighting anger and bitterness, wondering why she couldn’t let it go.

And then a pastor offered his perspective on the matter.

He said, “In the church tower, there is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. And after you let go of the rope, the bell continues to swing back and forth for a few minutes, and it continues to clang.

“The same is true of forgiveness…

“When you forgive someone, you take your hand off the rope. But if you’ve been tugging at it a long time, don’t be surprised if the thoughts of resentment keep coming back for a while. They’re just the clanging of the bell while it slows down.”

I think we all know about the clanging of the bell.

Whenever you hear the toll of unforgiving thoughts, it’s time to stop for a moment, make sure you’ve let go of the rope, and remind yourself once again that you have forgiven this person, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

And move forward.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)

A Lesson From Bonnie & Clyde

There’s a scene in the movie Bonnie and Clyde where the couple is holed up somewhere in a hideout, unable to leave because the cops are on their trail. It has become obvious to them that this life of crime isn’t as glamorous as they had once imagined.

Bonnie Parker is dreaming of a new life somewhere, a clean life, where they could start over and live as other people do. She asks Clyde, “What would you do if some miracle occurred and we were able to walk out of here clean, with no record, and nobody after us? What would you do?”

Clyde Barrow thinks for a moment and says something along the lines of, “I guess I’d do things different. First, I wouldn’t live in the same state where I pulled my bank jobs, and when I wanted to rob a bank, I’d go to another state…”

Bonnie turns away in disappointment. This isn’t at all what she had in mind, but that’s Clyde Barrow for you.

This is where some get confused about grace. Paul said…

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

The slate is clean and we’re free to walk out the door and live a brand new life. But something about the old nature prefers life on the run, and we sometimes find ourselves going back to that dreadful, painfully unglamorous existence.

We were saved from the muck and the mire, and yet, sometimes we can’t wait get to back in it. This is the Clyde Barrow in each of us, that sinful creature who is always longing to return to the old way of life.

God sets you free. He wipes clean the slate. He gives you a fresh start. He does this so that you will never have to go back to a life on the lam. He pours out his grace, not so we can we can be a better Clyde Barrow, but so that we can experience the dreams of a Bonnie Parker.

These are the dreams of a new life: free from the chains of the past, free from the guilt of our sins, free to start again.

God says he will accept and acquit us — declare us not guilty — if we trust Jesus to take away our sins. (Romans 3:22 The Living Bible)

Bonnie and Clyde were both criminals, both sinners, both condemned. But this (probably fictional) vignette from their lives gives us an insight into ourselves.

Your inner “Clyde Barrow” might want to use this freedom as an excuse to sin more, but God has given you his grace so that your new nature — with those “Bonnie Parker” dreams — can experience the full freedom of life in Christ.

It’s a question of whose dreams you will choose to follow today.

You’ve been set free, pardoned, and released. You can walk out the door. How will you live out your freedom?

Jerry Bridges

Bankruptcy and Grace

In his book Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges talks about the two different kinds of bankruptcies: Chapter 7 and Chapter 11.

Chapter 11 is a temporary financial reorganization that keeps a company’s creditors at bay until it can get back on its feet financially.

Chapter 7 is a total and complete erasure of all debts, with no further requirement to repay, nearly always leading to the dissolution of the company.

How does this compare to the Christian life?

Grace is a Chapter 7 experience, but many believers treat it like Chapter 11.

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the forgiveness received at salvation is a temporary reorganization of the mess we have made with our lives, providing enough relief to last until we’re able to live in the strength of our own goodness.

That’s not how it works.

We’re saved by grace and we live by grace. The same grace. It comes through faith, and this not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. We live the Christian life the same way we begin it: by grace.

For this reason, rather than promising again and again to do that which we are incapable of doing, it’s better to start the morning with a simple prayer, requesting that the same grace that saved us will sustain us throughout the day, and by that grace we may grow closer to Jesus in all we do.

New Every Morning

New Every Morning

Patrick HenryPatrick Henry’s primary contribution to the history books is the phrase “Give me liberty or give me death.”

But there’s another statement attributed to him that you’ll find quoted often.

He said, “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”

Repeat this phrase before an audience and you’ll see heads nod in agreement. It has the ring of good common sense.

Be careful, though. This axiom might be true when applied to politics or history or investing your money, but it’s a lousy foundation for relationships.

And it certainly doesn’t reflect the way God relates to us.

As Jeremiah wrote…

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God doesn’t judge your future by your past. He didn’t with David or Moses or Peter or Paul; neither will he with you.

The best way to begin each day is to remember, at the moment that you opened your eyes and reached for the alarm, you were given brand new mercies — the chance to begin again with a clean slate, the chance to become the person he created you to be.

By the way, this is also the best way to start the day with others. Since God won’t allow the past to stand in the way of the future, let’s give the same gift to others.