There was this guy. In a lot of ways, this guy could be any other guy, and that doesn’t really make him main character material. That is, sometimes being mundane sort of sets the scene to explore what’s actually different or valuable underneath. Isn’t that the point of plot and character development? But what if I told you . . .
There is no character development coming. He’s not turning handsome. He’s not changing his career, outlook, friends, or anything else. He won’t even change his perspective.
He isn’t facing an adventure. If you look for plot development, his life seems repeatedly to sidestep while never approaching a climax we’d expect in either a story or life. I mean, there’s mockery and scorn. Haters. Roadtrips. In the end, he dies more or less alone, though he isn’t without some friends or a relative or two. He never had a girlfriend, got a raise, or any other lesser milestone we tend to prize. Even so, millions of words pour out about him.
In fact, let’s make this a little bit harder. Have a main character that you’re determined to point out is altogether human, flesh and blood, set into this world like, well, just any ol’ guy. He’s not interchangeable or anything: he has his own personality, education, goals, etc., but try to write in such a way that neither personality nor ambition sets him apart. Even his words aren’t entirely own. And, wait, don’t define him by a sin or persistent weakness either!
Who in the world would write that story? We just don’t naturally think, read, or write in that way. We purposefully avoid it, lest stagnant characters dull a tedious plot beyond the power of words to save. Ok, some of us might imagine this as a challenge and in a way it is, but it’s one we can’t win.
It is all in the words. Specifically words overlooked or under-considered like “became man,” “emptied himself,” and “humbled himself.” It’s a real story, written about the super star of all super stars no less. He set aside prestige. He set aside power. Sure, he was witty, but he wasn’t known for it. He was smart but openly mocked. People misapply his words, stories, and anecdotes all the time. Still!
I’ve been thinking about the Incarnation. The Incarnation of our God was not to birth God in a new form so He can now rule the world with power. He already ruled in power and needs no form at all. Unless . . . He becomes a second Adam, a child of dust under law to redeem those under the law. In a very real sense, Jesus becomes a rerun, an every-man rather than a single man, this guy who came for every guy and every gal rather than those pumped up with bonus features.
“Who are you?” his detractors would demand. Could we answer, “He is the one guy who didn’t swell himself up by personality, ambition, prowess, or force—physical or intellectual— despite the truth that He is Truth and Wisdom? He is who He is, transcending the merely human adjectives in our minds. He is the one who didn’t reveal Himself in all His power, wit, wisdom, or love lest we sinners see God and perish! Who used a cross to veil His greatest triumph. And He did so for the sake of the nobodies and anybodies, us included.”
Jesus is the only One who would go from absolutely “set apart” to absolutely “all the way in.” Not only God-made-Man, but in a sense man-made-man again, without all the baggage and trappings we consider so defining of character yet remarkable precisely because He is man as we never have been.
Would we have reacted differently than all those people in Scripture if we met Him back then? Nope, because what we would see and hear is a guy with a guy’s voice. Quite a guy! But even then it took the Holy Spirit. Even then it took lessons from the Father and the faith that only comes from hearing the Word.
I’m not sure we can imagine just how human He became—and remains—for us. But it’s all in the Words! And as Christians and writers, we can marvel about that for absolutely forever!