Candace O’Reilly knew her life would be over if her plan didn’t work. Two simple steps and she would be safe. Three, and she would be free.
So … ? Who is Candace O’Reilly, and why is she in danger of losing her life? What sort of peril awaits her? What is her plan, especially the third step?
Hopefully, the suspense created with these few words will be intriguing enough to convince the reader to read on. Statistics show that the average reader is only willing to spend a few seconds reading before choosing whether or not to continue with a book or story.
Writers call this type of beginning a “hook”—a means of catching the reader’s attention. Hooks are also commonly used at the end of chapters in order to dissuade the reader from putting the book down. These are the books we stay up all night reading!
Hooks almost always leave the reader on edge,asking questions. Maybe as to why a character spoke or behaved in a certain way. Maybe in response to a hint that danger or a critical solution is imminent. Or maybe the scene leaves the reader emotionally uncomfortable—anxious, afraid, or broken-hearted—enough to read on to relieve the tension.
“There’s one thing I’m sure about,” said author, Stephen King. “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: ‘Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.’” (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/why-stephen-king)
What about the hooks in our spiritual lives? Is there anything in the way we speak and behave that might catch the world’s attention? Might cause them to ask questions about our faith? To consider seeking what they see in us?
Perhaps co-workers wonder why we don’t participate in gossip, swearing, or crude humor. Maybe family members notice that we don’t harbor grudges but are willing to forgive and work through relational issues. Maybe the community notices when we stay up all night packing sandbags for a bulging levee after working a full day at the office. Or maybe folks we don’t even know notice the peace of God in our lives when we are walking through stressful circumstances.
I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit uses these hooks to encourage believers in their faith and to draw non-believers to Himself. Not that we can manufacture the hooks ourselves. Rather, as we allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out, fruit will appear on our branches … appealing sustenance available for the hungry in mind, soul, and body.
Unfortunately, there are also hooks in our lives that draw attention in a negative manner. We are human, and we error. Perhaps we show impatience at the grocery store, intolerance at family gatherings, or apathy in the church. Errors that make others, believers or not, wonder if they want anything to do with the beliefs by which we profess to live. What can we do to avoid these hooks?
Abide in the Vine. Spend time with Jesus. For the Lord said, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Have we got our hooks turned in the right direction? Do our lives invite others to come on in and hear the story of Jesus?
Barbara E. Haley
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