Ryan and I study diversity in the world’s languages. Language is rich and complex, and lots of scholarly energy is poured into finding what some call “language universals” so we can make sense of it. One of these universals is something we might have guessed. Stories. We learn from stories. Stories are what make up our histories, what define us and what we use to identify ourselves, what we read to and tell our children, what our children tell us, what we pass on through generations.
Of course, the structure of stories differs greatly from language to language. “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after” aren’t language universals. The scholar Robert Longacre, however, has suggested several story elements that are shared among a lot of the world’s languages. One of these elements he calls the “inciting moment.” The predictable is disrupted, plans take a sudden twist, the story isn’t what we had previously thought. The inciting moment gets the story going.
Sometimes we are happy trudging along in a comfortable and safe episode of our story, and we’d rather not be disrupted. About two weeks ago, we were on a pleasant run in a sunny park, when our car was vandalized. An unwelcome inciting moment happened. Plans were changed, our routine was disrupted, and the story of the next several days was not how we would have written it.
But it helps us to look at our stories as a part of a much Bigger Story.
We can remember the bigger inciting moments–
when God spoke the earth into being and called it good,
when He took on human form as Jesus,
when the tomb was found empty,
and when by His grace, He rescued us and made us His children.
These are the inciting moments of the Bigger Story, and the Author is using us to form it into a narrative for His glory. Every moment of our lives is a part of His story, and Ryan and I remain His dearly loved children in every beginning, every conflict, every climax, every resolution.
So if you have just experienced a discouraging inciting moment, or if you are just trudging along, we invite you to remember Jesus, the Author, who endured the cross and ignored the shame because He focused on the joy that was set before him.