I can feel my eyes beginning to roll before they actually do. The story, so engrossing mere moments ago, has just overreached what even my imagination deems realistic. I’m too close to the end now to simply give up, but I do so with a skeptical eyebrow raised.
Deux ex machina, or “God from the machine” for those of us not fluent in Latin. The dictionary definition is “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.” There’s a reason authors try to avoid this literary faux pas, and it lies in the word “contrived.” As a reader, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief as long as the author follows the rules they have set for themselves in their story. It’s irritating when the author has written themselves into a corner and the way they choose to salvage the ending is with a super-powerful, yet random intervention. It feels lazy, unrealistic, and slightly insulting.
The eye rolling doesn’t end within the pages of a book. Deux ex machina is something we recoil against in our everyday lives. Why? Because so many times it isn’t some all powerful force coming to save us; it’s merely a scam. You’ve never actually won the free cruise, the “free” timeshare always comes with a million stipulations, and that great opportunity is most likely a pyramid scheme. In this fallen world full of liars and thieves, we have trained ourselves to be skeptical readers of the fine print. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Is it any wonder that the world (and let’s be honest, ourselves at times) views the Gospel in the same light as Little Red Riding Hood?
“Wait, so you’re telling me that an omnipotent God created everything, allowed us to totally mess it up, and then didn’t scrap it all? Because He loves us? Not just that, but He loved us enough to give up His deity to become a helpless baby, live the perfect life we never could, and then die for us — the ones who screwed it up in the first place? Oh, and here’s the kicker! If we ask, He’ll forgive us, make us His children, and allow us to spend eternity with Him? All I have to do is accept and believe? Yeah, right.”
Well…yeah, that is right.
Think about it, what situation is more hopeless than the one we are born into? Utterly captive to sin and the devil, there is none among our race who can free us. There’s no Maximus coming to cut down the tyrant, no William Wallace, and the riders of Rohan aren’t cresting the hill. Why? Because they are all mere mortals, bound the same way we are. As Isaiah says, “Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?” (49:24) The answer to Isaiah’s questions in a strictly pragmatic, realistic world, is generally no.
But, while there is no man coming to save us, there is a lion. He is an Aslan bigger than the pages of any book can hold, breathing hope into a hopeless situation. That isn’t the best part, though. Just because something is powerful doesn’t mean that it is for or against us. The flesh and blood lions we see today don’t care if they are attacking a good or a bad guy. They just know they are hungry. Yet Jesus, omnipotent God-man, the Lion of Judah, fights for us.
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant shall be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.”Isaiah 49:25
As much as we try to avoid it in our everyday lives, there really is a God from the machine. Deux ex machina is real and praise God it is! As contrived as it may appear, this story of redemption has always been a part of the plot. Just because it isn’t the climax we would have written doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The God of the universe is our ally and He fights for us. He fought for us on the day we came into relationship with Him, and He continues to fight for us as we wrestle with the fact that His mercies are new every morning.
I’m still going to roll my eyes when a bolt from the blue rescues a work of fiction from the dire straits it has put itself in. I’m also not going to be sending money to any down-on-their-luck Nigerian princes any time soon. However, I am praying that God helps me see fact from fiction in the things that matter most. And the fact of the matter is that God is real, and He is actively fighting in the “already” as we wait for the “not yet.”
“It may be too good to be understood, but it’s not too good to be true.”-Jess Ray