Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Our Own Personal Inciting Incidents

There’s one in every story. Without one there is no story.

Not really.

I mean, I suppose Sam and Frodo could have just stayed in The Shire and tended their gardens. That would have been a long and dreary book. The discovery of the One Ring changes the world for them. And makes a story.

There could’ve been an entire movie about Dorothy moping about Auntie Em’s farm, pining for adventure and romance. But that would’ve made a terrible movie. (Well, it might have made a weird coming-of-age indie film that nobody watches.)

Every story has an inciting incident. I’ve come to the place where no matter what I am watching or what I’m reading I am on the lookout for it.

For example, I started season two of Broadchurch last evening. (Oh my word this is good). Series 2, Episode 1 contains the inciting incident for the entire 8 episodes. A particular character pleads "not guilty" to a murder charge and an entirely new series of events (that's called "progressive complication" in storytelling speak) unfold. But the surprising "not guilty" turns everything on its head.

I love a good inciting incident.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about life, faith, and fear. And how each intertwines in organic ways, creating this beautiful tapestry that is our existence on this planet. I often equate life to story. They mirror each other a lot.

From international weirdness involving Kim Jong Un, Dennis Rodman, and the President of the United States to a man who may have had his dental implants taken during divorce proceedings. (His ex is dental implant specialist - and he has no front teeth. What else should one conclude?) These kinds of stories cross our paths every day. We relate. We interact. We laugh. We cry. We change.

The problem with thinking about life in relation to story is the inciting incident. Inciting incidents always move us from the comfortable to the uncomfortable. They put us into places we’ve never been in before. Things that cause a series of events that put us into a new realm. A new world. A new world that's often painful.

Real life inciting incidents don't feel like so much fun when they're happening. They feel like you were just pushed from a cliff and you have no idea what's at the bottom of the fall. It could be a safety net, a body of water, or the cold hard ground.

That's how we often begin a journey of transformation.


Life is very much like stories. We know this because stories are the one universal language we all understand.

Our personal story will get uncomfortable. In fact, it will get downright painful.

But in the end, I believe with all my heart in redemption. Transformation. And all things new.


In the final day, all be made well. Not without consequence. But always with meaning.

And that makes the tornado, finding of the One Ring, the not guilty plea, and every other inciting incident a hinge that opens the door to a new world. Embrace it. Walk through it, knowing that this is your own story. My own story.

And our own stories make us human.
Imago Dei corum mundo.