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The Hero’s Journey - Inciting Incident (A Three Part Series)

When I was in a creative writing class—and really all throughout film school—we were taught the ‘roadmap’ for a good story. The plot diagram (seen below) can mainly be broken down into three parts: the Inciting Incident, the Climax, and the Resolution. This is the blueprint of a story. If a story is missing any one of these three main parts, then it either lacks the reason for the journey, the stakes of the journey, or the outcome of the journey.


The literal definition of ‘incite’ is to “stir up”. In other words, to unsettle something. Ultimately, it’s that inciting incident that throws our character’s life into chaos and sends them on their adventure out of complacency and towards growth and development.



“For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.” Proverbs 1:32

While we may interpret the shattering of our comforts to be a terrible thing, God doesn’t desire comfortable or complacent Christians. He wants us to be like Him and he has a picture of each of us in His mind that he desires to mold us into. I’ve heard one person use the analogy of a sculptor: God is a master sculptor and we are the marble set before Him. He sees the final product and the masterpiece that hides within each of us, but to get to it, we must be chiseled away piece by piece until we are made like Him.


The unsettling of “Comfortable Christianity” is a painful process, but at the end of that journey, we’re closer to Him and He uses it to enrich our stories (testimonies) to encourage others to embark on their own journeys. Through that, we strengthen the body of Christ with believers whose faith has been tested and find themselves ‘mature and complete, not lacking in anything’. While it’s difficult (though not impossible) to see Him in the midst of the trials, it’s in the aftermath where I find myself able to look back and see all the times that He stood next to me and walked the path with me.


“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you’ll be swept off to.” -Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings

The inciting incident is the moment that challenges our protagonist to step out of their front door and embark on a journey that will challenge them in many different ways. They are the first steps towards a positive or negative development of character. The protagonist always has the opportunity to deny undertaking their journey but, in doing so, they deny themselves growth.


Probably my favorite story ever is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve always seen myself as akin to the hobbits when I watch those movies—perfectly content to remain in my little home tucked away in a hole in the ground—unwanting of any sort of adventure, but rather a quiet life without any cares or worries. Let me just live life content and in my own paradise. Unfortunately, we don’t live life as much as Life lives us. Trials befall us all.


When you step out your door when the trials inevitably come, keep your feet about you. If you’re not firmly planted in Christ and grounded in His word, there’s no telling where you’ll be swept off to. It’s important that Christ be made our foundation so that when the rains come and waters rise, we stand steadfast with a confidence that is only found in Him.


“Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” James 1:2-4

When a trial comes our way, it's not to be viewed as a punishment, but rather it should be welcomed with open arms as an opportunity to grow more into the person that the Storyteller intends for you to be. Our lives are written line by line by the greatest Storyteller in an attempt to make you more like Himself and, while we’ll always fall short of that goal, it’s important for us to strive to be greater than ourselves. The moment humanity believes they’re gods over themselves we build ourselves into individual towers of Babel reaching ever closer to Heaven to make a name for ourselves, only to be struck down and stricken with confusion by God.


I’ve struggled with several long bouts with depression in my short 27 years. It took every one of them to teach me that my ability to persevere through those dark years was rooted in God as opposed to being found in my own pride. It was then that I understood that He was with me every step of the way. If I had convinced myself that I could make it through those trials by sheer willpower and stubbornness in not wanting to say ‘I give up’, I would’ve made myself a god over my own life and who knows where I would’ve been swept off to.

We should rejoice through all of our inciting incidents! These are the triggers for our trials that will lead to us not lacking in anything and strengthening our faith in God, our storyteller—we need only seek Him, trust in Him, and persevere.

Oftentimes, it's the inciting incidents that destroy our main character right out of the gate. It’s the internal battle of complacency and nihilism that determines whether our protagonist will undergo the journey or maintain the status quo. When we look at the trials that would develop our faith and we choose to stay where we are by a hardened heart of complacency, we set ourselves up for destruction.


My recurring trials are tools to strengthen my faith in God and, with each trial, He chisels a dead piece of me away and brings me one step closer to being like Him. Though I feel despair, loneliness, and fear in life, I must remind myself that I live life in the hands of the Father and that my story is being written one day at a time. These conflicts are inevitable, but with conflicts come resolutions.


When you see the triggers for one of these many trials you’ll face in life, face it with confidence and assurance that the testing of your faith will only make you more like Christ. Step into the trials with trust and calmness despite the darkness you face. Despite the difficulty of the road that you trek throughout your journey, it’s the moments in the darkness where we realize how good and faithful God is. There will be times where you find yourself amidst the storm—the winds and the waves distract you from God and you feel yourself starting to slip constantly convincing yourself that He has forsaken you and that you are alone—but keep your eyes fixed on Him.


He is with you, always.

 









Ben Hilligoss



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