Every Life is a Story
“Every life is a story. Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you.” Donald Miller.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is Donald Miller’s latest book that walks the reader through his journey of what he learned while “editing his life”. The process takes place when Donald is approached to make a movie out of his latest book, his memoirs. It is during the process of writing the screenplay about his life that he starts to see that perhaps he really doesn’t have much of a story to tell. As he reviews his life for critical moments, he realizes that he doesn’t remember much about his life – that most of us don’t remember half of what we live so it is as if we really didn’t live it at all.
Miller’s realization during this face-to-face look at himself and what makes a good story is that no one really remembers easy stories. Throughout the book, a central theme emerges — a good story has a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. So there has to be some passion and drive and some obstacles in the way to create a good story. The characters face their greatest fear with courage. And most good stories have death in the mix, either physical death or inner death. It is through the extremes of happiness and sadness that a colorful story is told. Death reminds us that life has some finality, which adds the tension to the story and creates the forum for the reader to take the drama seriously.
And further investigation into what makes a good story shows that most good stories are not about fame and fortune but rather address fears that are relationship issues such as risking rejection, asking forgiveness, or learning to love fully. Good stories are about people, relationships, being human, and overcoming obstacles. It is through the obstacles that the character changes and evolves from one kind of a person to another. In nearly every good story, the protagonist is transformed.
Miller shares how he decided he needed to write a better story for his life. He decides he has to get off the couch and get out and do something that will stretch him and allow him to grow. With this in mind, he joins some friends who would be spending a week kayaking up the Jervis inlet in British Columbia. The trip would be 100 miles round trip and they would camp along the way. The journey was difficult and the last night seemed to go on forever. The sky was dark; no one could see. They were leading themselves through the starlight and listening to the oars in the water to keep themselves together. They couldn’t see when they would arrive. In fact, it wasn’t until they were practically upon the land that they knew then they had arrived. And so, Miller states, is life when a good story is being written. “You paddle until you no longer believe you can go any further. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows faster. The trees get taller and you make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boats onto the sand.” (Miller, 2009)
And that is the point of a good story. No matter what the conflict or how hard, it will bless the protagonist if he will face his situation with courage. Miller believes that there is no conflict that we endure that will not produce a blessing. And a good story has to take the character to a place where he can’t take it anymore. It isn’t “joy” that changes a person, it is conflict, pain, and/or sadness. Joy is what you feel after the conflict is over. And there you find a good story. Life is a blank page waiting for you to write on it. Create your story. (Miller, 2009)
Miller, D. (2009). A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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