Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Final Enemy

The battle with the biggest villain always comes last in our stories. Our hero battles his way through the minions, each is worse than the last, then comes the final enemy. Everything that the hero has learned to this point goes into defeating the enemy who has been behind all the problems he has faced. Only then is there a final victory.


In life, we have a final enemy. That enemy is death and there is no enemy quite like it. If we face it and lose, there is no coming back from eternal separation from God in a place of torment. If we face it and win, there is eternal joy and peace. But win or lose, to face death is to face pain and agony. Though some go quietly in their sleep, there are so many ways to die that are far from peaceful. A man’s heart stops and though he may keep breathing for a while, it does him no good because he runs out of oxygen. He gasps for air and fears the end is upon him. He knows he is dying, but there’s nothing he can do. A woman driving her kids to school is distracted and runs a red light. She sees the truck bearing down on her and hears the crunching metal and breaking glass as it slams into her door. In pain she tries to reach for her children, to see if they are okay, just before she slips into the sleep of death. The final enemy is an enemy that we long to avoid.

When we tell our stories, our characters may not all face death, but they all face a final enemy. In the best stories, they don’t rush into that final battle any more than we seek to face death. In the movie E.T. you will recall that though the children did what they must to help E.T. phone home, they really didn’t want him to leave. In Where the Red Fern Grows, the protagonist faces the final enemy only by the loss of his best friends. In The Dollmaker, the final victory comes down to a choice involving a block of carving wood. It is a choice that she puts off for as long as she can, but she must face that final enemy in the end. Our characters should be the same. They should not want to face the final enemy at all. They should fight against our efforts to force them to, but we must push them on. We must no spare them, no matter how tempting it is.