I just finished reading a book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and it was all about how to live a better story – to live the kind of story that people want to make a movie about. Apparently after his book Blue Like Jazz sold millions of copies, some filmmakers approached Miller about turning his memoir into a movie, but once they started working on it, they realized his life wasn’t an interesting enough of a story for a feature film. So Miller set out to discover what made a truly great story, and came to the conclusion that a story is “a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”
I’m sure many people believe I’m living a great story. I drive the car that won the Le Mans GT championship for the past 2 years. I throw parties that Jay Gatsby would envy. I smoke hand-carved pipes and wear cufflinks on a daily basis. My passport is stamped more times in a month than what most people get their entire lives. Yet even amidst these trappings of a supposedly romantic life, I’m still not convinced that I’m living a particularly interesting story.
A few weeks ago, my friend Katie had a brilliant idea. She started a Google Doc where our group of friends wrote what they were praying for so that we could be praying for each other, and also add updates in order to see how God had answered our pleas. Immediately, one of my friends asked for us to pray for a young girl she had been spending time with who had been molested before she had even turned 10. Every week, my friend would add updates to the prayer journal so that we could pray for specific needs – pray for her going to a rough part of the city to meet the girl’s family, pray for her to have the wisdom needed to help the girl, pray for her to get more opportunities to love the girl and her family, and pray for the girl to accept my friend’s offer to get her professional counseling.
On Tuesday, I arrived in the small town of Leoben, Austria, after 24 hours of travel. Still suffering from jetlag and tired from a long day of work, I opened the prayer journal Google Doc so that I could read the most recent updates and pray for my dear friends. There it was – the update was in bold blue print – the girl and her family had accepted my friend’s offer of getting her professional counseling. As I read those words, I wept. I sat alone in my hotel room and I wept. That morning I had driven two hours through the snow-covered Alps of Austria, witnessing some of the greatest beauty in all of creation, yet somehow I didn’t see the fullness of God’s glory until I read those words.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I can’t even imagine the weariness and burden that my friend’s friend must be bearing – but to know that she is seeking rest from the One who is “gentle and humble in heart,” whose “yoke is easy and burden is light” is a story worth remembering.
If Donald Miller’s definition of a good story is true, then what the character wants must be integral to the story. Miller states “The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.”