Plot Point 1 and Plot Point 2

Hudson River Recently, I had the privilege of working with Mark Baas, the founder and genius behind Baas Creative. Like me, Mark is a storyteller (albeit a much more experienced one).  While he was in Nashville, Mark taught me something about stories that I will never forget.

Have you ever heard of Plot Point 1 and Plot Point 2?

Every story ever told has a Plot Point 1 and a Plot Point 2. In most feature-length films, Plot Point 1 happens at minute 30. It's the moment where a problem or conflict is introduced to the main character. To borrow words from Nashville author Adam Ross—Plot Point 1 is the moment that makes this day unlike any other day. It's the moment the main character "steps of the dime."

The rest of the movie (or book, or 5-minute film) is all focused on resolving that initial tension. But it's not so easy. There are barriers to resolving what has gone wrong. And there's backstory to deepen our limited understanding. And then, just when you think it can't get any worse...

Plot Point 2. Plot Point 2 is the moment where the barriers suddenly become mountains. What was a difficult challenge now seems an impossibility. There's a twist in the story and the main character may never actually make it back home, or to the end goal. It seems all hope is lost.

And then. There's resolution. The rest of the story, Mark explained, answers the questions posed by the original conflict. The problem that started all the way at the beginning.

The Sandlot

Let's take The Sandlot, for example.

Plot Point One: The neighborhood boys invite Scotty Smalls to play baseball, but he is so terrible, it's embarrassing. His step-father won't teach him how to play, and it seems Smalls is destined to spend the summer isolated from any friends, and his life isolated from his step-father.

Barrier after Barrier and Backstory: There are days that are too hot to play baseball. A lost ball over the fence that requires the boys to pull together all their money to buy a new ball. There's some backstory about a monster dog next door. And there's this mystery about The Great Bambino...

Plot Point Two: Scotty Smalls hits his very first home run over the fence and into the yard with the monster-dog. But it just so happens it's the ball he stole from his step-father that is signed by Babe Ruth. Now it seems that even though Smalls is finally good at baseball... his step-father might KILL him—and the tension may never be resolved. Smalls may be forced to spend the rest of his life without a real father. All hope is lost.

Resolution: They finally get the ball back. Smalls is seen throwing a ball with his step-father, and he's actually good at it. He calls his step-father "dad."

Grand central

Here's the thing.

If you look at every movie, book, or story you've ever read—it will have these elements. But I don't think it's just a coincidence, or some formula that some director or writer discovered some time ago. I think Plot Point 1 and Plot Point 2 are wired in our DNA because we are in the midst of the greatest story ever told. And that story—our story—has plot points, too.

Plot Point 1 happened very near the beginning. Adam, the first man, stepped off the dime and turned his back on the God that created him. His Father. It seems he will never have a chance to resolve this relationship, because the chasm between God and man is just too wide. In fact, once Adam stepped off the dime—he wasn't even sure if God actually loved him anymore.

Barrier after Barrier after Barrier: God continually tries to attract his people's attention. He sends prophets. And judges. And kings. He establishes a law to open His peoples' eyes. There are sacrifices made to atone for sins, but they don't last. People turn to other gods, they build golden calves, they are exiled away from their land...

...and then... Plot Point 2: God comes to earth in the form of a Man—the second man. But just when everyone thinks Jesus has come to save God's people and establish a new kingdom, he is rounded up by the Jews and Romans and is brutally killed. It seems the tension may never be resolved. We all might have to spend the rest of eternity separated from our Father. In a miraculous, earth shaking moment in history, Jesus rises from the dead and appears to over 500 people. But then He's gone.

Resolution: This is where we are today. Beyond Plot Point 2. The story is not over. The curtain has not been drawn. And you don't have to read the Bible to know how the story will end. We will end up back with our Father because that is where it all began. He is on mission, and the story isn't on hold. We are moving, ever faster, toward the final scenes.

And I believe the end will be more satisfying than the beginning.


Neo-feminism, Steubenville and Jesus.

treeThis week I read a well-written cover story in New York Magazine by Lisa Miller called "The Retro Wife." I also have read tons of news stories and blog posts and rants about the tragic Steubenville rape case. And I've come to realize that these two seemingly separate issues are inexorably linked. It started with New York Magazine, and a deck that read: "The Retro Wife: Feminists who say they're having it all—by choosing to stay at home." 

Four years ago, I was already that woman.

It went something like this.

I'm sitting in Dr. Benjamin's office, surrounded by a crowd of linen bound philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, de Tocqueville, Machiavelli. Then there's me, a hopeful and anxious senior in college, ready and terrified of the stage that beckons me onward. It's calling my name, and so is he.

"So what comes next?" he asks dutifully, straightening a stack of papers and spinning in his swivel chair back toward a buzzing computer. He clicks away my transcript, and scrolls through his e-mail inbox. "Grad school?"

The suggestion is an old one. After all, the job market is hardly friendly, and I've already registered for the GRE, a command that came down from Colonel Carlton early on this year. But more school? Grad school?

"I don't know," I say slowly. "I don't want to apply just because there's nothing else to do. It seems like it could be a huge waste of money."

"Sure," Dr. Benjamin agrees. "It could be a huge waste of money if you're only going because there's nothing else to do."

"But," I continue, "if I don't go now, I'm not sure when I would. I hope to get married and have a family, some day too..."

Dr. Benjamin rotates back toward me, leaving his e-mail behind. "Would getting married and having a family keep you from going back to school?" he asks quizzically.

I freeze up for a moment, and wonder if I should say what I'm really thinking. I don't want Dr. Benjamin to believeI'm some bimbo who just came to college to find a husband, which clearly, from the light feeling on my left-handed ring finger, did not happen. I don't want him to lose respect for me. After all, I'm an intelligent student with a great GPA. I ought to have career ambitions. It's 2009. I ought to at least act like a feminist.

"No, no... you're right," I say. "If I figure out what I'd want to study, I'd definitely go back."

He looks a little relieved, and spins back toward his e-mail. But the words felt disingenuous coming out of my mouth. I know I probably won't go to graduate school. I know I probably won't want to. Because deep in my heart, I know what I really want. So I say it.

"I guess I always imagined myself staying home if I have kids," I say. His head juts backward and he raises his eyebrows in surprise, and immediately I regret what I've said. Great, now he thinks I'm an idiot. A disappointment to women who've worked to pave a way for me to do whatever I set my mind to. Surely now, he's looking at me and thinking I'm just a bimbo on the hunt for a man. But his words surprise me as much as mine surprised him.

"Good for you," he says sincerely. I'm shocked.

"Really?" I say, and laugh. "I've never said that to a professor, because I always feel like I ought to have these huge ambitions..."

"You know, I have to be careful when I talk to female students," he interjects. "I want to ask how they see family and relationships fitting into their plans, but I can't really go there unless you bring it up," he pauses. "I'm glad you did."

I sigh in relief. I just admitted the truth about the woman I want to be, and the man in front of me wasn't condescending. Now this is feminism.

IMG_1478In the New York Magazine story, Lisa interviews a neo-traditionalist stay at home mom, Kelly Makino, and opens a new can of worms in the old world of feminism. The point? Maybe a woman can choose to stay at home with her children, care for her house and husband, and not be disregarded as a disappointing remnant of patriarchal oppression.

But the part that really sets Kelly Makino apart isn't that she's staying at home. It's that she's not a conservative, right-wing Christian—and she's staying at home. Lisa writes:

"Far from the Bible Belt's conservative territories, in blue-state cities and suburbs, young, educated, married mothers find themselves not uninterested in the metaconversation about "having it all" but untouched by it. They are too busy mining their grandmothers' old-fashioned lives for values they can appropriate like heirlooms, then wear proudly as their own."

As I read Miller's article, I remembered the conversation I had with my professor back at Furman, and in a way, I felt vindicated. I'm a young, educated, married woman (who hopes to be a mother), and New York Magazine finally confirmed that the fact that I want my family to be my top priority doesn't make me uneducated or "backwards." Even if I live in the Bible Belt. Even though I believe the Bible.

Thankfully, I didn't wait on New York Magazine's confirmation that I wasn't alone. I wasn't ashamed to say it four years ago, and now, there are other women who are are saying it too. Miller writes, "For some women, the solution to resolving the long-running tensions between work and life is not more parent-friendly offices or savvier career moves but the full embrace of domesticity."

But as I was reading, I realized that a woman can't just decide to stay at home without taking on some serious risk. There is a lot at stake when you choose to quit your job and chart a path that can eventually include raising children and caring for the domestic sphere. After all, when you leave the "working world," you become financially dependent—on someone else. On a man.

But dependence doesn't undo feminism. It simply requires integrity from men.

Neo-feminism requires integrity from men. It requires men to honor women. It requires a man to be faithful to his wife. It requires a man not to divorce his wife. It requires men that don't look at women as objects to be used, raped, and thrown away as objects of pleasure rather than creations of God's glory. It requires a culture of boys who don't treat girls like garbage.

It requires a new kind of man. A radical, counter-cultural man. It requires a man who is a feminist. It requires someone like Jesus.

In her response to Steubenville tragedy, Ann Voskamp wrote, "In a culture of boys will be boys, girls will be garbage." She pointed to Jesus as the Father of Feminism—the one who made women heroes in his stories, and came through the womb of a woman, and regarded women as treasures not trash.

Until we change the "boys will be boys" culture, girls will have to fend for themselves, fight to break the glass ceiling, and build their own wealth and empire so that if, no when, a man walks away to pursue some new conquest, we will survive, because we didn't depend on them in the first place.

It's this exact point that Lisa Miller makes to end her article and "press" Kelly Makino about her new way of life. She writes, in the last paragraph, "What if Alvin dies or leaves her? What if, as her children grow up, she finds herself resenting the fact that all the public accolades accrue to her husband?"

Neo-feminism requires more of women too.

It requires women who trust men. It requires women who respect men. It requires a woman to be faithful to her husband. It requires a woman not to divorce her husband.It requires a woman who believes that she is created by God, and valued beyond her resume.

It requires a new kind of woman. A radical, counter-cultural woman. It requires a woman who is a feminist and raises boys who are feminists.

It requires a woman like Jesus.