Creating an epic journey

I finally got to see Donald Miller, one my favorite authors, speak a few weeks ago in Whittier about his book, A Million Miles in a 1,000 Years.

This book and lecture is about story. The story we are telling with our lives. How we live. What drives us. What are our goals. Role of conflict? How do we live to make sure that our lives tell an epic journey?

It really made me think about my life, especially where I am now and what’s next for me. Yet what really grabbed me most was his notion that God doesn’t have a specific plan for our lives and that we are not complete in Him. So what then is the story and how do we tie into HIStory and if we are not complete in God what’s the point? Thought provoking isn’t it. Don’t call it blasphemous just yet.

Miller begins to to think about these components of an epic journey as he is approached about doing a movie of his life. He is forced to think differently about how to live and how to engage with the audience through choices made.

Every character in a good story have a clear goal and overcome obstacles to achieve it. In a boring movie we can’t connect to characters that don’t know what they want. We can root for them on their journey if we know where they are going and believe they deserve it, integrity matters.

It is why, Donald says, that in story theory there has to be “save the cat” moments, where we see the protagonist go above and beyond themselves for someone else. This doesn’t mean their perfect, no we like to see them make mistakes, but we have to see they are good. This propels them towards the “inciting incident” the point of no return where the story and challenges really begin. Figuring out what they want happens in the beginning.

So the key to a great story is overcoming whatever is in the way of us achieving our goals, essentially dealing with a lot of conflict. It isn’t about being comfortable. It’s about the pratfalls when we’re out of our comfort zone. It’s the growth, maturity and hilarity that ensues when we have no freaking idea what’s next or how we’re going to get to the next step, if we even know what that is.

Conflict is biblical and even reminds us that there were negative emotions in the garden, when everything was perfect and Adam’s relationship with God was whole. In Gen 2 God noted that Adam is lonely, even though he had a perfect relationship with God. He needed and wanted a helpmate. So he was not complete in God. He still longed for someone else.

Miller says that believing we have to be “complete in God” first is not a Christian worldview. Wow! That is life changing, especially for singles. How many times have you heard to learn to be content with only God first, then you will find the love of your life. Ooh yea. I’ve heard that a lot. How freeing to know that it is a God-sanctioned desire to want to be with someone. Even Adam in the most perfect place, Garden of Eden, was lonely.

God doesn’t give him what he wants first, instead he has to name the animals first, which could have taken years. A negative turn in the story, a setback. So God dials up the tension, angst and longing. The difference between Adam and us, Miller says, is that Adam never doubts God’s love for him or that he has anything other than his best in mind. Adam lives in and with the tension and conflict but feels peace, no worry. Yea. I don’t live like that. When God puts Adam to sleep to fulfill his hearts desire as soon as he sees woman he says, she is like me. He knows because he just named ALL the animals of the earth.

God always redeems conflict. our choice is to trust or be bitter. When we’re bitter our stories are tragedies. If we can find God in the middle of it, trust him for His best then our character is changes and we will help others. We have to stand and be courageous in the face of fear and conflict. We can’t seek comfort and still live a good story.

That is an of itself is a HUGE concept to digest. I have been chewing on it since I heard it, but I’m not done. There’s still one more mind-boggling concept to wrestle with here.

Our ultimate Act 3 rescue, the resolution to our story is not yet. This is the grand finale when all is restored the happily ever after starts. For now, we are still waiting. But even in that there is some release of tension. Miller says he got off the emotional roller coaster when he realized that life will not come to fruition in the here and now. We will not fully be who we were designed to be until we are in eternity. God’s story with us now is redemption, the rescue.

So we are engaged, living in anticipation of that moment of Christ’s return. This is our moment of hope of what is to come. There is joy and peace in that. That fact makes it easier to endure the conflict, thrive in the chaos and stand still in the mayhem because we know where our help comes from.

So how does our story fit into this grand plan of restoration? This is where Miller contends that there is a great probability that God doesn’t have a specific plan for our individual life. God is telling an amazing story with history but there are many lives that go undocumented. We only hear the big, amazing stories.

He jokes that if you’re a virgin and pregnant, your donkey talks to you, bushes catch on fire and talk, you wrestle with angels or birds feeds you in the desert then God may have a plan for your life. However God gives us free will over where we go and what we do. He “fathers” us he doesn’t “dictate.” He is the one that gives us a heart for the adventure, that is why he tells the epic stories, to give us a sampling of what life surrendered could be, but its still up to us. Our job is to dream big, think without limitation and cultivate a good character.

That last concept could really change your priorities in life couldn’t it. If we live with the hope of the not yet then this life gets easier. It isn’t do or die right now its how we engage in our stories and overlap our stories with others. How are we “saving the cat” so that others can have a bigger picture of who God is. God’s will is not a yellow brick road its really all about learning to trust and love him.

Even after a few weeks I’m still digesting. I had a chance to meet Donald after the talk but wouldn’t ya know I couldn’t think of a thing to ask him. I hadn’t processed the talk enough. Now I want to know, in light of his view on God’s will how does he believe Jer 29:11 is used out of context? How had he pushed through the fear?

So good.


About Marti

After a year-long sabbatical in Southern California I am returning to Ohio to try and resume my life. Who knew you went home again to start living.

Posted on May 12, 2010, in Reading, Single Serving, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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