We tend to be exceptionally egocentric in how we view our own lives. I doubt I am alone in sometimes thinking of my life as the plot of a movie. I’m the protagonist of course, because everything’s all about me right?
The harsh truth of the Christian worldview is that while you may feel like the protagonist of your own story, you certainly aren’t the protagonist of everyone’s story. Your own little story is at best merely a subplot of The Story of which Jesus is the protagonist. Even if you were granted protagonist status in your own life, it is still not your own story. As you grow in your faith, you start to realize even in your own life, Jesus is still the protagonist of your story.
Now that I’ve used the word “protagonist” 7 times and reached the number of perfection early in the post, I’d like to switch to a different literary term. Tacitly, we all may realize that Jesus is the name that goes at the top of the marquee on the movie poster of our life. We’re certainly not the ultimate bad guy in someone else’s story, but that doesn’t mean we are always helping the hero.
In his book, The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler lists these archtypes for character roles:
- Threshold Guardian
Virtually every main character in a movie fits one of these roles. While you may be scratching your head wondering what a “Threshold Guardian” or a “Herald” is, the other roles should be transparent. The hero, or protagonist we’ve already covered. The Mentor is the wise old helper for the hero (like Obi-Wan) and the Ally is the hero’s companion on the journey (the Han Solo if you will).
If not the main antagonist, Tricksters are certainly in the mix working against the Hero. The Shadow of course is the actual antagonist, but in some ways he can also be the dark side of the Hero’s own psyche that is working against him. This leaves us with Shapeshifters, which I think truth be told, is what most of are in relation to other people in our lives.
Shapeshifters, as the name implies, are hard to read, and may switch sides or backstab the Hero. If pressed, we’d surely admit that in most other people’s lives, we have merely cameos or supporting roles. What we’d rather not think about though is that some of those supporting roles at most times look more like Shapeshifters than Mentors or Allies.
I’d like to think that most of the time I’m a Mentor or an Ally, but because I’m sinful and put my own self interests above others, I may take on the Shapeshifter role when it suits me better on my own heroic journey. Hopefully as I grow more like Christ, I’ll play the Mentor and the Ally to my friends and family. In the meantime, I’ve found that a good way to examine myself to ask whether I’m being a Mentor or a Shapeshifter. Perhaps you may find this a helpful exercise too.