Many of us experience this type of narrative mismatch: we feel disoriented because we aren’t entirely sure who we are or what story we are actually in. Many, especially in our secular society, have unknowingly adopted the existentialist storyline. The existentialist story says that we live in an objectively meaningless universe but can defiantly choose to create our own identity and meaning. As Irvin D. Yalom writes: “One of our major tasks is to invent a meaning sturdy enough to support a life and to perform the tricky maneuver of denying our personal authorship of this meaning.” Apparently, the only way out of nihilism, and its accompanying despair, is a blatantly irrational move: to invent your own meaning and purpose and then deny that you did so. That is, act as if meaning were objective even though it isn’t. We see then why existential confusion and despair pervades our culture: deep down we all know that the fictional meanings we create can’t satisfy our desire for true meaning any more than a decorative apple can satisfy our hunger.
My dad was on an airplane once with a young man whose t-shirt captured the existentialist sentiment well; it said, “I’ve given up on the search for reality, I’m now in the market for a really great fantasy.” Is there an alternative? Do we have to resign ourselves to counterfeiting meaning or is there a genuine article to be had?
The Christian Metanarrative
Contrary to existentialism, Christian theism asserts that the world is teeming with intrinsic meaning. God created the world and He “has made everything for its purpose” (Proverbs 16:4). The alternative, then, is knowing and living according to the true story of the whole world.
The true story is that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); He made mankind to be in loving fellowship with Himself and to partner with Him in the development of a godly civilization; mankind rebelled against God, sending the world into turmoil; God came into the world to rescue His wayward creation and restore humanity to right relationship with Himself; we are now called to partner with God in His redemptive purposes by pursuing relational reconciliation and cultural restoration; and God has scheduled a day when He will recreate the heavens and the earth and judge humanity in righteousness and justice.
So, to answer Samwise Gamgee’s question, we are in a story of redemption written by God. Who are we? We are “living statues” created as part of a series of God’s self-portraits. Where are we? We are in God’s world. What part are we supposed to play? We are the priest-kings of all creation, God’s second in command, called to loving partnership in ruling over the earth with the King of Kings.
If we are to make real sense of the world and our place in it, it is to the Christian overarching narrative that we must make reference.
 Irvin Yalom, The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients (New York: Harper Perennial, 2017), 133.
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