This past weekend, I had the blessing of re-reading an old favorite book, Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”. Many of you may be familiar with Donald’s more famous book, “Blue Like Jazz”, a breakout spiritual memoir that was a huge bestseller. It was a wonderful book-and I loved reading it- but Donald’s second memoir is, to me, even more insightful than his first.
In the second memoir, we meet Donald, and Donald is STUCK. He has published a bestselling book, gone on a very successful tour to promote said bestselling book, and has been invited to speak as a motivational speaker all over the country. He has written a few more books, none of which have sold or received the acclaim of his first one, and he is at a crossroads, wondering “what’s it all for?”……………..
In reality, he is depressed.
He is spending a lot of time alone at home, on the couch binge watching T.V. He does not have a woman in his life, and he is sad about a string of relationships in his past that never went anywhere. The friends his age are moving on, finding spouses and having children and he is still there, on his couch. Alone.
All of a sudden, he gets a request from a couple of screenwriters, who love “Blue Like Jazz” and want Donald’s help and permission to make his memoir into a movie. They arrive at Donald’s house and kind of move in, camping out on air mattresses on Donald’s floor. Donald doesn’t have a lot going on in his life, so this is OK with him.
The first thing that these writer’s explain to Donald is that they are going to have to add a “story arc” to his life. Donald’s life, sadly, is too boring to translate to the silver screen. At first, Donald is mortally offended by this, as most people would be, I think. After a while, however, he begins to learn from these movie writers- and various other teachers that he meets along the way-about story and narrative- and he begins to apply these principles to his own life. He decides, quite bravely, I think, that he wants to become a more active participant in writing the story of his life.
And that is when the book gets really interesting…….
I won’t give away all of the daring adventures Donald gets involved with- because I want you to go out and read this book- but it got me thinking hard about the last two and a half years of my life, and how I have been busy re-writing a story of my own………
Two and a half years ago, my life was at a crossroads. I was stuck in a story- and I didn’t want to be there anymore. My Mom was at home, with advanced dementia, and my husband and I were trying to take care of her and keep her in her home and out of a nursing home. That was the result of a story that was written for me as a young child.
“Promise you will never, ever put me in one of those horrible nursing homes!”, my Mother would say to me, from the earliest time that I can remember. And I did. I did promise that, and, in sticking to that promise and staying with that story narrative, that was written for me by somebody else, I had stayed in that story- LONG after it had become safe for me to be there.
I was terrified every day. My marriage was seriously on the rocks, and so was my sanity. The people whom I had hired to help with respite care were not able to commit to more hours. The agency people were strangers – and that wasn’t working at all. I was a wreck, and had turned into a person that I didn’t even know anymore. In the wee hours of the morning, as I lay awake on the living room couch, trying to keep my Mom from wandering out the door in her nightgown, I was starting to have some terrifying thoughts………
I could just end this all and tap out of this life and go to be with Jesus……..
That thought scared the crap out of me.
It was time to write another story.
My story was, alas, not going to end with me heroically keeping my Mom out of a nursing home- because that story was going to end with my death, or the death of my marriage, or the death of my sanity.
Neither of those endings were acceptable to me…….
So I got involved with writing another one- and it turned out better for everyone involved.
That story took awhile, and, in many ways, I am still in the process of writing it.
But I have my sanity back, and my marriage is strong, and I graduated from Seminary and just started my first ministry job- and I know , very well, that none of those things would be happening if I had chosen to be the hero in that other story- the hero in somebody else’s story.
I chose, to be the hero in my own.
What about your story? Are you an active hero in your own life? Or are there some things that you would re-write given the chance?
If there are some things that you would like to re-write, reading Donald Miller’s story just might give you the inspiration and jump start that you need.
“God, grant me the serenity- to accept the things I cannot change- the courage to change the things I can……
And the wisdom to know the difference.”