Reaching for Answers: Finding Peace in the Prequel

Star Wars. Halo. Harry Potter. Final Fantasy. The MCU. The Legend of Zelda. Tomb Raider. What is one thing all of these various properties and so many more have experienced over the years? If you answered PREQUELS, then clearly you already read the title of the article. If there is one constant in the various seas of entertainment we choose to enjoy, it is that no franchise is immune to moving farther forward or backward in time in order to milk every last possible storyline from it. From excellent additions to the lore of their respective series such as Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi to essential experiences such as Halo Reach, prequels have proven time and time again that in the right hands they can be both commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed. Performing a time jump to the past can give us the opportunity to learn even more about our favorite characters and the worlds that they occupy, but there is also a curious dynamic that exists in exploring these launching points… before we even begin partaking of the experience, we already know where the story inevitably has to go. While I feel like this isn’t much of a spoiler, SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t finished watching Tales of the Jedi… Ahsoka will survive the prequel to her story. She kind of has to, since she shows up for several more decades in all the other series. And no matter how much we may hope for a different ending, Count Dooku will ultimately join Palpatine and embrace the dark side because we already know how his story ends, too. In all of these prequel stories that we watch and play, many of the outcomes are already well known to us in advance. And yet, we still play and watch them… because even if multiple portions of what is coming next is known to us, part of the fun is finding out exactly how they got there.

While a large part of my personal enjoyment of the entertainment I consume is being surprised with where each story goes and discovering how these narratives reach their conclusion, there is also a relaxing aspect to the “prequel” experience. I was able to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi series with full confidence that no matter how harrowing his ordeals would become, I knew he was “safe” because he exists many years later in the timeline. The fate of the Master Chief was never in doubt in Halo Reach… we all knew he was getting off of that doomed planet just fine. Plot armor in our stories is nice, but PREQUEL armor is truly impenetrable because we know that these characters MUST press through their current challenges in order to show up for their pre-determined roles later on in the timeline. For all of the drama that may unfold along the way, there is a peace in the prequel knowing that the creator must eventually reconcile where we are currently at with where we know the story ultimately concludes.

One of the most challenging parts of walking with Christ is reconciling the reality of the Lord’s love and care for us with the setbacks, tragedies, and disappointments that we face during our time down here. While our short time on this planet makes up only the tiniest fraction of our eternal existence, it can often feel like this life and the battles we are currently enduring is the most permanent part of it. And while we can read encouraging verses and hear inspiring messages that remind us of the joy that awaits us at our journey’s end (1 Corinthians 2:9), these uplifting thoughts can often feel very divorced from the harsh realities we face within our current predicaments. Whether these challenges are staring us in the face from the moment we first open our eyes in the morning, or they are the last battle we fight as we buckle under our burdens and collapse into bed at the end of another long day, they are REAL. And often, these present adversities can feel far more real than any amount of promised future happiness. Like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, I have a feeling we have all felt the crushing pain of the present and found ourselves teetering on the edge of our ability to keep our heads above the troubled waters that surround us.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

The truth is that we are all starring in the “prequel” to our eternal story… as the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the Lord has already planned for all things to work together for the good of all who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). But much like watching our favorite heroes endure fresh challenges in their prequel stories, knowing the eventual outcome doesn’t make it any less stressful to watch them in their current predicament and wonder how they will survive and get to the future they are destined to fulfill. Sure, I know Ahsoka Tano grows up to become a powerful Force-wielder, but I was still on the edge of my seat as I watched the infant version of her get kidnapped by a vicious predator. Even when we know there is a pre-determined outcome to the stories we are watching and playing, our emotions in those moments can override our rational thoughts and cast doubt on what we know to be true. So, what is the point of these “prequel” experiences that we endure in life? Why does the Father allow these storms to come if He is the Lord of the winds and the waves? Let’s take a deeper look…

Christ has had some very interesting interactions with the literal storms that His followers faced… as a matter of fact, many of His most impactful messages are closely tied to the concepts of winds, rain, and stormy seas (Matthew 7:24-27). But the WAY He chooses to resolve our “prequel” perils is as different as the ways He chose to address each of those situations in the lives of Peter, Paul, and His disciples. The one we tend to like the most is when Jesus simply got up, calmly told the winds and the rain to simmer down, and clearly demonstrated His absolute power over their current predicament as casually as if He was blowing out a candle.

Mark 4:35-41 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

I WISH all of the Lord’s stories involving the winds and the rain ended in this simple and direct manner. That’s the way I tend to prefer my prayers to be answered, if I am being honest. But Christ’s response the next time His followers found themselves in a similar predicament was a quite a bit different, resulting in a unique experience for not only His disciples, but a SIGNIFICANTLY life-altering moment for Mr. Simon Peter…

Matthew 14:22-31 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Once again, the storm reached a point of calm… but this time, the way Christ demonstrated His mastery over the storms that we face in life came with a lesson in faith for Peter. This wasn’t the first time that Jesus had calmed a storm, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last… but let’s take a look at one more storm before we try to understand what all of these storms we face in life mean to us.

Acts 27:13-20 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.

Acts 27:21-26 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Seems like Paul got the shortest end of the stick… there wasn’t any “Peace, be still” or water-walking this time. Just a massive shipwreck that resulted in a complete loss of the ship and all of its’ cargo, with the promise that every life within Paul’s prequel predicament would be preserved. The endgame of Paul’s story required him to make it to Rome, so no matter how treacherous the journey became, Paul HAD to make it to the other side because the ending of his story had already been written. Sure, at the time it looked really bad… the crew had given up all hope of survival. And instead of calming the sea, the Lord permitted the storm Paul was facing to fully run its’ course and calmed His child instead. And in these radically different ways of responding to the storms that His followers faced, we can gain a bit of understanding about the storms that we are currently enduring in our lives.

Romans 8:18-19 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

Sometimes the Father chooses to calm the storm that we are in, other times He calls for us to come to Him and walk across these troubled waters… and on many occasions, He simply reminds us that while this current leg of our journey will result in a shipwreck, He is still in total control of the final outcome if we will hold onto Him in faith. And that is the most consistent part of what Jesus asked each time He demonstrated His power over the battles that we are facing… will we reach out to Him in faith, or will we recoil in fear? Christ’s mastery over the storms that we face in life was never in question… our ability to see HIM as the Master regardless of how He chose to resolve them was the point of each of these lessons. He demonstrated that He is capable of calming the storms so we can place our complete trust in Him… even in those times when He doesn’t calm them. Our peace cannot come from what He does TO our storms… it must come from understanding that we are currently in the prequel of a story that He has written. A story that already has a pre-determined ending… Christ’s complete victory that He is sharing with all who have placed their faith in Him (1 John 5:4).

When watching or playing a prequel story, I can relax knowing that the main character will overcome the overwhelming and seemingly inescapable challenges they are currently facing… even if things aren’t looking up at the moment. It isn’t because of my faith in the character and their capabilities… it is because I know the creator of the story is bound to the pre-determined outcome of the previously established “canon” built within the narrative. And the same is true for us… if I can trust that the game developers and writers of these shows and movies can find a way to tie their prequel narratives into the over-arching stories that these fictional characters are destined to fulfill, how much more should I trust the omnipotent Lord of the universe with the seemingly impossible situations I find myself in? The way He chooses to resolve my present turmoil may not be the same way He addresses it with others. It may not even occur in the same way He has solved my previous problems… He may calm my storm, ask me to walk to Him through the storm, or simply guide me to endure it and trust that He will see me safely through to the other side. But that is the great thing about knowing the One who is writing this “prequel” story that I am in… I know He will be faithful to see me through to the other side of it, because He promised to (Philippians 1:6). And as both Peter and Paul would share in their reflections about the storms that they faced, if we will place our faith in Him and walk in obedience through whatever “prequel” storms in life we are currently facing, the Lord will be faithful to bring us through to the endgame He has promised to each of us as well. We can have peace in the prequel, no matter how crazy these storms in life may get, because we know how the story ends for all who have put their trust in Him… an eternal victory beyond our comprehension (James 1:12).

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