In part one I introduced the concept of the Hero’s Journey and how it relates to our spiritual journey. We are all the hero of our own story and by studying this pattern we may gain insight that will help us find our true selves, that is, the person God meant for us to be.
God made the world to teach us about Himself. The character of God is integrated with the natural world. God is Trinitarian in nature, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are created in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). As a result we tend to view the world through a trinitarian lens. We speak of three states of matter, solid, liquid, and gas; three units of measurement, length, breadth and depth; and three stages of our awareness of the events that surround us, past, present and future.
Every human action can be broken down into three parts, before the action, during the action, and after the action. This is the basis for all of our stories. Every story, in order to be a story, has a beginning a middle and an end. Screenwriters know this and regardless of how many “acts” are incorporated into a movie or play or television show, they all have a beginning, a middle, and an ending, usually referred to as “set-up,” “confrontation,” and “resolution.”
During the “set-up” characters are introduced. We meet them in their world and their surroundings and learn of their relationships. Usually within this part of the story something happens that drives the protagonist through the rest of the story. A problem arises that must be dealt with, or a need that must be fulfilled. During the set-up the hero recognizes that some action must be taken.
In the “confrontation,” the hero takes action. He attempts to solve the problem he recognized during the “set-up.” This usually involves the hero learning new skills and learning more about himself (or herself) and what he is capable of. This is known as a “character arc.” In a proper story, the hero changes during the story as he comes to a greater awareness of who he is and why he is here. The hero cannot do this alone and is frequently aided by a variety of characters who serve as guides, mentors, and allies.
This is an important point. The hero of a story undergoes a change. He is not the same person at the end that he was at the beginning. In the 1984 movie “Beverly Hills Cop,” the action revolves around Detroit police detective, Axel Foley. It is natural then to assume that Axel is the hero in the movie. But Axel does not change during the course of events. He is pretty much the same person at the end of the film that he was at the beginning. Beverly Hills detective Billy Rosewood, on the other hand, does undergo a character arc. Billy goes through the stages of the hero’s journey, including sacrifice. I would submit that Billy is the hero of the story.
The “resolution” begins with the climax of the story and the aftermath of the confrontation. Loose ends are (hopefully) tied up, allies are rewarded, enemies are shamed or punished. The problem perceived in the “set-up” is dealt with, the dramatic question that propelled the story is answered and the characters have a new sense of who they really are.
How then do we relate these three stages to our spiritual journey? We have to start labeling them properly. Our spiritual journey is about discovering the person God meant for us to be. We have all been given a unique combination of gifts talents and abilities that have been given to no one else in the same proportion. They are given to us for a reason and finding that reason, fulfilling our purpose, and becoming the person God meant for us to be is the point of the journey. The first stage of our journey therefore is “Discernment.”
At the beginning of our journey we are discerning the action that we must take. Something is missing in our lives, or we sense that we are not doing the things we were placed here to do. Or perhaps we perceive a need that we know in our hearts we can meet. Discernment is opening ourselves up to hear God calling us to discover our true selves.
This leads to the second stage, “formation.” During the period of formation we learn more about ourselves, our skills, our talents, and our abilities. We acquire allies, mentors, and guides to help us as we prepare for the ultimate test or our resolve. We are formed and molded into the person we were meant to be, the person that can set the world on fire.
The resolution of the journey comes when we discover our “vocation.” We have discovered our true selves, who we were meant to be, and our purpose here on earth. We are no longer what we were at the beginning, we have been transformed into something new and can return to hep others discover their own journey.
These are the three stages of our spiritual journey, discernment, formation, and vocation. We will look at each one in lore detail throughout the series. In the next part we will take a closer look at the story within the story as it is played out on the movie screen as well as in our lives.