“You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
-J.R.R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Read the back of nearly any book in the Fantasy section of your local bookstore and you will very likely come across the Chosen One. Within a sentence or two you will be introduced to the one person who can stop the world-ending events that threaten. So ubiquitous is the premise of one seemingly unremarkable individual plucked from the obscurity of their circumstances to perform an impossible feat, that to name a story within the genre that doesn’t follow that narrative is a challenge.
Sure, the setting and details vary but from Star Wars to Harry Potter; The Matrix to The Lord of the Rings and everything in between—the idea of the the fate the world hinging upon the Chosen One is as prevalent in our cultural stories as—well—the notion of a dusty ancient book that contains the prophecies about the Chosen One.
While one might be tempted to regard this familiar plot as hackneyed and overplayed; its re-occurrence the sign of an unoriginal storyteller; (and indeed, in many cases, that is likely true)—nonetheless, the fact that ‘the Chosen One’ appears time and time again in our cultural narratives seems to indicate that something else is at work—something deeper.
Stories resonate and communicate to the heart of mankind more effectively than anything else. Jesus taught the people using parables to communicate truth through the powerful illustrative effect of a narrative. Stories demonstrate the stakes and the obstacles that surround a truth with greater impact than spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations. We don’t need to take notes to remember them for they are empathetic undertakings. We find ourselves weeping or cheering for the imaginary. Stories get in our heads and hearts and we do not forget them.
The Chosen One resonates again and again because it is true. The plot is written with indelible ink on our hearts and played out against the backdrop of the world. To be plucked from the obscurity of the masses by a force greater than ourselves for a task of monumental importance rings in pitch perfect truth with our humanity.
To be loved. To be needed. To be important. To matter. To have been created for a purpose. The yearnings of the human heart are bound up in the story of the Chosen One. The messianic imagery of every Chosen One story line speaks to the fact that mankind is looking for the One who will come and save the world. The stakes are high and time is running out. It is no mystery that the premise so pervades our cultural stories. We know deep down that our situation is desperate. We know deep down that we need someone to save us.
Despite the implicit question contained in the word chosen, the world does not know who will be doing this choosing of monumental importance. And—that makes a lot of people nervous. Instead of the obvious, writers fantasize about impersonal forces—using placeholder words like, ‘destiny’ and ‘the universe’ to cover their fear of the personal God who takes interest in our lives and the events that surround them. The God, who C.S Lewis reminds us in the character of Aslan, isn’t safe, but who is good.
We are chosen. Not by chance or an impersonal force; we were created from nothing and appointed to tasks upon which the fate of the world swings.
We are called to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
We are called to be children of God reflecting His attributes for His glory.
We are called by our names, from the darkness of a world spoiled by sin, into His perfect presence.
We are the chosen ones, called to pattern our lives after the example of the Chosen One of God: the Messiah.