There Is No What If

I love reading Don Miller because he makes me THINK.  There’s so much temptation to NOT think and just slog through life day by day, spend time looking at lolcats instead of meditating on the bigger things.  This also means that if I read his stuff I need to sit down and read it – not a page or two at a time – because I need to focus, and then my mind runs wild.

One thing he says in Blue Like Jazz is, “I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time.  This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious.  If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.”

I’d heard some good things about his new(ish) book, A Million Miles In a Thousand Years, so placed a hold at the library and a few weeks later that gold book was in my hands.  It sat for a while on my counter as other things were busy happening but I finally picked it up as the due date approached.

I’m still only a third of the way in, but it’s blowing my mind.

The book is about stories and what makes a good one and what if our lives were good stories?  Ultimately, a friend tells him, a good story is one in which a character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

He tells of a friend who’s having problems with his teenage daughter who’s doing drugs and dating a guy who’s bad news.  Don ponders with his friend that maybe the daughter doesn’t have a good story, so she’s picked the option that seemed most interesting.  The father thinks about this and decides that his family is going to build an orphanage in Mexico – or rather they’re going to as a family come up with $25K to build the orphanage.  Suddenly they all have a story to participate in – one in which they can be the “heroes” and accomplish something.  The daughter tells her dad she wants to go meet these kids and take their pictures and write about them on her blog to get other people interested in helping.  Oh yeah, and she ditches the loser boyfriend.

Isn’t this true of all of us?  We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  And we all know that every good story includes conflict – like overcoming adversity or trying to scrape together $25K.  Don says (basically) we get peeved at God for being mean when we go through tough stuff when in reality maybe He’s just an awesome storyteller.

When the credits roll in the story of my life, I’d rather people be stuck to their seats in the theater wanting more instead of yawning, stretching, and checking their cell phones for new text messages.

What if I lived a life worth living?

The whole gist of this book – from what I’ve gathered so far – is that filmmakers comes to Don and say they want to turn one of his books into a movie.  The problem is that a book about thoughts doesn’t translate well into film, so they have to try to find/make a story to weave it all together.  And Don writes this book about what he discovers about life as a story.

They are working on their ‘Don character’ for the movie when one of the guys asks, “Where’s Don’s father?”  If you know anything about Don Miller, you know his dad left when he was young (and he wrote a book about it).  When they mention this, Don gets kind of agitated because it’s a sore subject.  And he writes:

I knew… that the same elements that make a movie meaningful are the ones that make  a life meaningful.  I knew a character had to face his greatest fears.  That’s the stuff of good story…  I knew a story was calling me.  I knew I was going to have to see if my father was alive.  And once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a choice.

That’s why I feel that, for me, there is no more “what if“.  I will move abroad.  I will spread my wings for an adventure and experience something different.  I will overcome challenges in order to do it – and probably loads more once I arrive.  I will do my darnedest to live a life worth living.  The only questions that remain are where, how, and when.

Before I sign off, do you remember that definition earlier of a good story?  A character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

A story is more than just an experience, and my life story will be more than just this trip.  So now I’m faced with a question: what do I want?  And I don’t mean just in the next year or decade.  Exploring another country is just a short-term answer.  What do I want out of life? I could throw out generic answers like “meaning” or “adventure” or “stability” but I think this question deserves some longer, more serious thought and a more specific answer.  And I don’t have one fully formulated yet.

I encourage you to think on this, too.  This may be the most important question we all have to answer as we journey beneath the sun.

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