Testimony: Finding Myself in Salvation History

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Anonymous

In the book, The Drama of Scripture, the biblical narrative of salvation history is framed as a work of drama, with six acts.  These acts are Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church, and New Creation (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 23-24, 2014). The first three acts come from the Old Testament, and the final three come from the New Testament. In many ways, I feel that this Six Act Drama plays itself out in my life as well.  As a Catholic man of faith, this makes a great deal of sense to me.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, hence CCC, states that, “God is the author of Sacred Scripture. ‘The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit’” (CCC 105, 2000).  Additionally, it states “The inspired books teach the truth…” (CCC 107, 2000).  These two quotes point to the primacy of Scripture in how I find my life playing itself out. Since Scripture is how God narrates His will, and since we are made in the image and likeness of God, it follows that patterns present in Scripture would manifest themselves in my life.  Each act of the drama represents a phase of my life which has either happened, is currently happening, or one for which I still await.  

The first act of the Drama is that of Creation.  This refers to the reality that God made all things from nothing out of love (CCC 296, 2000).  All that which God made was good and served Him and His eternal glory (CCC 293, 2000).  For a time, all of creation was at peace, serving and worshipping God in the Garden of Eden.  

The first act of my life is very similar to that of the biblical narrative.  At the moment of my conception, my soul was created, and imbued into my first cells.  From that moment on, I was a unique human being, made in God’s image and likeness with the purpose of serving Him in all things (CCC 1701-1703, 2000).  After my Baptism, I became a son of God, fully incorporated into His family (CCC 1213, 200).  In the innocence of my childhood, I lived the Gospel as best as I could.  I went to Mass every week, got my catechesis from my parish elementary school, and learned how to pray.  For my age, I did pretty well with living out my faith.  God was the most important thing in my life, and I lived with child-like innocence.  I was conscious of sin, in the sense that it was something that God had forbidden.  Like Adam and Eve, I walked blamelessly before God.  Though I was capable of minor sins due to my fallen nature, I had no concept of graver sins.   As with Adam and Eve, however, I would soon find myself in an entirely chosen, but unintended state.  

The second act of the Drama is that of the Fall (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 39-43, 2014).  This refers to the initial decision of our earliest human ancestors to doubt God’s love and question His reasoning.  Along with this doubt came temptation by the Devil, and the conscious decision to reject God’s lone commandment. This decision led to all the great evils of the world, worst of all death itself.  The perfection of that which God made was lost, and man no longer walked in His presence.  All humans born after the Fall came to possess Original Sin by virtue of birth and have suffered from this first rebellion since then. 

It is hard for me to pin down an exact moment in time at which my own “fall” occurred, and I do not really think I could even if I remember my entire past.  Rather, as C.S. Lewis notes in his Screwtape Letters, my path to Hell/Fall was a gentle, steady decline without any clear indication that it led directly to Hell (Lewis p. 24, 1942).  Before I knew the effects of that into which I had fallen, I found myself at a place in my life where I too had lost my communion with God; I was about eleven years old. At that young and naïve age, I willingly rejected the true comfort which I knew could come only from God and sought to fill the void on my own.

The third act of the Drama is called Israel.  Israel is Hebrew for one who contends with God; it is also the name of the nation selected by God to be His chosen people. God communicated with Israel through His prophets, who both gave/preached the Law and brokered covenants between God and man (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 45-73, 2014).  Israel was faithless despite all this, and consistently was afflicted because of their inability and unwillingness to do God’s will.  This rejection brought them to the brink of annihilation, being saved only by God’s refusal to abandon them completely. Throughout the duration of their constant rejection of Him, the people of Israel were promised eventual salvation (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 119-134, 2014).  Additionally, even as they turned away from Him in all things, His will was still made known to them, and affected them even in sin.  

I was in a state of contention with God for six years, or a little less than a third of my life so far.  With the benefit of hindsight, those were the six worst years of my short life.  Like Israel, my sins started off innocuously enough.  Soon, however, I began to do things which I had never even considered feasible in my life.  My desire to fill the hole left in my heart in God’s absence, led to unbridled hedonism.  I sought my own fulfillment rather than the service of others.  In some ways, I was worse than Israel in my sinfulness. Whereas everyone knew of the wickedness and transgressions of Israel, mine remained a secret.  I was a hypocrite in every sense of the word.  I judged people for the very things I myself did and refused to admit to them when pressed to do so.  I painstakingly forged and maintained the visage of a devout young Catholic and received praise from relatives and teacher-mentors alike. Even today, I still grapple with all the undeserved praise I received during this time in my life, and how my duplicity skewed their image of the true me.  I tried to form “covenants” with God to forswear my sin.  In this case the covenants took the form of the Sacrament of Confession (CCC 1422, 2000), by which sin is forgiven after recognition thereof, and a demonstration of true sorrow. Like Israel, my attachment to sin prevented me from fulfilling my end of the bargain.  Entirely undeservedly, I also received visits from “prophets” of my own.  They took various forms ranging from theology teachers to priests and deacons to fellow teenagers.  Each of them enabled me to grow in my practical, textbook knowledge of God, and reminded me of my necessity of Him. It could be said that my period of contention with God was marked by gaining knowledge about Him without truly knowing Him.  

Act four of the Drama is called Jesus.  This act recounts the decision of the Triune God that God the Son should come to live among man in the person of Jesus Christ (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 135-150, 2014).  Jesus ministered to the people of Israel for three years, and above all preached a message of love.  He highlighted the desire of God to gather all peoples back into communion with Him.  At the conclusion of the three years, Jesus handed Himself over to be crucified for a crime He did not commit.  With His death on the cross, sin suffered its final defeat (CCC 615, 2000). Through Jesus’ Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the gate of Heaven was opened for mankind, and salvation was offered to all who asked.  Jesus Himself stressed that work was still required on our part, and that we must seek to serve Him, not merely believe in Him, to attain the fruits of His Passion.  

It has been about three and a half years since the Jesus moment in my life.  It took a lot for me to finally escape from the clutches of sin, and I could not have done it without Christ. Though of course I still sin, that which caused me to remain far from Him is firmly and totally a thing of the past, thanks to His grace. We know that the Holy Spirit works through humans to achieve His will.  In my case, He worked through one of my dear friends.  After a late conversation one night, the truth which I had so feverishly worked to hide was finally revealed to someone else.  In spite of my lies, she did not forsake me; she told me that I was wrong, but that I was still a beloved friend.  Her unconditional love that night and subsequently, enabled me to recognize God’s perfect love for me despite all I had done. To Him, I was not “The wicked sinner, N.”; I was “N., beloved but broken and a son”. In her merciful treatment of me despite my sin, she did not disregard justice. Neither, of course, does God Who perfectly balances both justice and mercy. From that moment, I pledged to commit myself to Him daily.  I made a good, genuine confession, and have not habitually fallen into my former type of sin since then.  Once I recognized that Christ freely died for ME, I realized the selfishness of my former ways; I had been turning up my nose at the best gift ever.  I recall that moment of my life as the moment my salvation began anew.  

Act five of the drama is called Church. This is the act in which we all still live.  At the beginning of the age of the Church, Jesus’ apostles grew the number of believers from a few dozen, to tens of thousands (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 185-203, 2014).  All of this was done by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The same eleven men who hid after the crucifixion were empowered by the Spirit to boldly proclaim Christ everywhere. All of today’s 2.4 billion Christians are so because of the bravery of these men.  They faced horrible torture and death at the hands of the Romans, but the loving self-gift of Christ empowered them to keep fighting the good fight (CCC 736, 2000). 

Act five is currently where I am in my life.  Having recognized the magnitude of Jesus’ death, I am now committed to spreading His message everywhere.  At present, I do this through my Catholic Center on campus and my parish.  I have learned to take what I learned about God during my Israel period, and apply it to know God personally.  I am living out the call to make disciples of all people. The woundedness I underwent has given me a zeal to try to prevent anyone else from experiencing what I did. Though it is a tough and daunting task, I know that God will provide me with the gifts I need to fully carry out His will.  Likewise, I know that the work is never done.

Act six of the Drama is New Creation.  At the end of time, Christ will return to judge all the living and the dead (Bartholomew and Goheen pp. 227-234, 2014). All of us will receive new bodies; the wicked will go to Hell, and the righteous shall see God. This sight of God will be like our original innocent state (CCC 1042, 2000).  God will renew all of creation, and we shall live to glorify and praise Him always.  

New Creation is everyone’s ultimate destination; it is not a question of if, but of how.  How will we live out our eternal life? This is the question to which I would like to hope has only one answer for me.  I look forward to my eternal fate daily. If I find myself inclined to commit some sin, I remind myself that forever is a long time to be wrong.  

To summarize, the Six Act Drama of the Bible is a prism through which I can view my life’s story.  I was created to love God and be with Him.  Through my own fault I chose to leave Him, and spent a long time rejecting Him.  I came back to Him after truly reflecting on His willingness to die for us and pledged myself to Him again.  I now serve to spread the word of God wherever I go and do so in hopes of sharing in a renewed creation with God forever.  

References

Bartholomew, C. G., & Goheen, M. W. (2014). The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). (2000). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

Lewis, C. S. (1942). The Screwtape Letters. London: Geoffrey Bles

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