The Same Old, Same Old
We’ve all heard it before. In the beginning… In a galaxy far, far away… Once upon a time… Let me tell you a story about…
These are all the beginnings of great stories. They move us. They encourage us. In fact, they are us. Well, they can be anyways!
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.
Christopher Vogler in his book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, describes the Hero’s Journey as such:
1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
7. APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
Here it is in visual terms…in case the above explanation doesn’t fit your learning style!
The Hero and the Christian
This journey fascinated me and started a line of thinking that prompted this post. Can we apply this journey to the Christian’s life? To many people, the Christian life is anything but heroic. Some see it as false, weak, or crazy. Many believers see it as a struggle, a one-time decision, or a small portion of their life. But for some, to be a Christian is to live the Hero’s Journey. For these few, their lives have meaning and purpose. The 12 points of the Hero’s Journey are a part of their faith journey.
Let’s apply the Hero’s Journey to our Faith Journey:
1. THE ORDINARY WORLD: The ordinary, broken man.
2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: The man is unhappy, Introduction to God or the idea of God.
3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL: Uncertain of Christianity or of God.
4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: Encouraged by a relative, spouse, friend, and (ultimately) the Holy Spirit.
5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: Accepting what Jesus accomplished through the Cross and His resurrection.
6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES: Discouragement, persecution, spiritual attacks are suffered while friends and mentors are attained.
7. APPROACH: Discovery of internal obstacles to God.
8. THE ORDEAL: Choose the disciplined life (death to self, put God first and trust His ways).
9. THE REWARD: Discover and grasp our true identity in Christ.
10. THE ROAD BACK: We take our wisdom to the world we came from. The adventure has internalized the truths, we are no longer the same and don’t want others to stay the same.
11. THE RESURRECTION: A great test comes that we have feared, not accounted for, or happens to someone we love. Our trust in God is tested in a way that would have separated us before.
12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: The new identity and life are triumphant over the great test.
Isn’t this an exciting way to look at the Christian life? My points may differ from yours, but the journey paradigm is a beautiful way to look at our life as a Christian. It’s more than a momentary decision. It’s a circular journey that calls us to ever greater levels of intimacy with God and heroic change.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I’d love to hear (read) your thoughts about this! Is the Christian life heroic? Does it fit into the narrative pattern of the Hero’s Journey?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts.