What Makes a Great Story?

What’s the secret to a great story? Teachers and mentors at writing conferences I’ve attended have told me it’s having a lead character who desires something with every fiber of their being, but cannot have it. This story line works great in fiction but this past week I witnessed it in real life.

My wife is passionate about animals–dogs in particular. Honestly, I think we have more books in our house about dogs than our girls have about Dora. To say Melanie loves dogs is like saying the North Pole is cold–it’s a comical understatement. You can see the excitement in her eyes and hear the passion in her words when she talks about helping a dog and its owner make a connection and live happily together.

And of course there is nothing she would like better than to have a dog of her own. But just like any lead character in a good novel, she has a problem with the thing she loves. Her body is not as in love with dogs as she is. Melanie is highly allergic to dogs. Not just sneezing and runny nose allergic. I mean stir up her asthma to the point her airways become constricted and she can’t breath allergic. She can get away with it for a couple of hours while training someone else’s dog, but trying to live with a dog is a different story. Seriously, for her this is a curse.

At the beginning of the year we brought into our home a dog we hoped might be the answer. Sasha is an American Hairless Terrier and, you guessed it, hairless. Lively and  full of fun and love, she and Melanie hit it off big. In no time flat Melanie had this dog very well-trained.

But unfortunately Sasha wasn’t the answer we hoped she would be. Over the next few months Melanie’s allergies and asthma continued to worsen, even while taking several medications.  It all came to a head this past Friday when for the sake of Melanie’s health we gave Sasha back to the breeder. It was a day filled with tears, many of them mine.

It doesn’t seem fair that the one thing Melanie would desperately love to have, her body cannot bear to be around. I know she would give anything to be able to have this little dog puttering around our feet again.

Not to spiritualize this story, but the whole experience has given me a small measure of understanding as to what it must mean for God to be separated from us.

To say God is passionate about us is also a comical understatement. He is the one who breathed life into us, created us for his fellowship, and considers us family. Nothing would please him more than to have us in his presence every moment of every day. In fact, this was his original plan.

But it would not last. The one thing God wanted most of all became impossible for him to have because we sinned. And as much as he loves us, his holy nature can not bear to even glimpse the sin covering our lives. It produces a contagion his holiness won’t tolerate. And it’s this contagion of sin that sickens him much more than any allergen could ever sicken our mortal bodies. Like Melanie and Sasha, the only answer for him in the end was separation from man.

However, God refused to let this separation from what he loved be the end of the story. So he created another answer. God’s love became the cure for the sickness of our sin. But the only way it could be administered was through the blood of his son Jesus–the Great Physician. So in order to end the separation between us and him God sent his son, a part of himself, to cure us from our own sin.

Believe me when I say I’m not trying to make this story into something it’s not. I know in the final analysis Sasha is just a dog. But the pain of our family’s separation from Sasha is real and the desire to have her back just as tangible. Even so, we would never sacrifice one of our children to bring her back home.

Yet the difference between us and Sasha is far smaller than the difference between us and an all-powerful eternal God. Still, he didn’t hesitate when the only way to bring us home was to sacrifice his son. And that is what makes his story not simply great, but awesomely amazing.

Live The Mission,
Greg