Living in a Story that Matters (part 2)
A Great Question
I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It has been immensely challenging… and encouraging. I can’t shake the simple truth of it — a story is a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. That line, “wants something” has been haunting me. I can’t let go of it. Miller is right — a clear desire is at the heart of every great story. Every hero I can think of has this in common. Every quest ever undertaken succeeded only because they had it — they know what they want. And, the question about what I want has kicked my butt. Try it out for yourself, you’ll see what I mean.
I began considering the question at a 30,000 foot level. I want… to be a good person… to be kind and loving to others… to teach and serve… to be generous… to encourage and inspire… and maybe somehow my life will change the world. Wow… WAY too broad… and at 30,000 feet it also feels really underwhelming. But it dawned on me… every story has sub-plots, smaller stories that are lived out as part of the larger story. Yes, I want to change the world!… but I’ve got to take a first step.
The Story I want to Live
There are very few really good stories I’ve ever read that had only a single character. And even in those the character is usually lamenting the absence of others. So, as I see it, I can live in one of three story-lines. I can live in a story that requires only what I’m willing to put into it. Or, I can live in a story that will require much from me, maybe everything I’ve got, but still only requires myself to carry it out. Or, and this is what I believe to be the best of all possible stories, I can live in a story that requires more than I have to give. In this kind of story, if outside help doesn’t come (i.e., God, friends, others) then the story will fail. This is the kind of story I want to live.
Here is a story I want to live out:
I want to host several events in our area to help men/women get their hearts back and equip them to live better stories. After attending a “Wild at Heart” bootcamp retreat in 2005 (hosted by John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries), I was inspired to put on my own local event for those unable to attend the Colorado events. And, last year I put on my first event, a three-day weekend retreat – I called it “LIFEQUESTweekend”. Three days, thirty men, and God –lives were changed.
Putting on an event like this is difficult. It requires hours and hours of preparation and prayer and coordination. It requires involvement and sacrifice from everyone involved. It is exhausting… and worth every bit of effort — there is nothing like it. I’ve been to “Men’s retreats” before, but there is something different about this event. It isn’t just inspirational… it is transformational. We open up space for the Men to hear from God – and they do hear from God. Men struggling with pornography are changed. Marriages are set back on track. Men find their bearings again. And the result is a ripple-effect that shapes everyone in their lives. At one session, standing in the back during a movie clip, I couldn’t help but feel there was no better story I could be living than this.
I now want to host more events, for both Men and Women, including a “LIFEQUESTweekend – Advanced” retreat. At the “Advanced” retreat, I plan to create an environment to help Men/Women intentionally focus on their stories and how God has uniquely empassioned them to live them out.
I’ve begun moving ahead. Last week I gathered a couple of friends together at Starbucks and asked them what kind of story THEY want to live — they said they are excited to partner together to put on the next retreat. We’re planning it for Jan, 2011.
It is easier to watch a story than to live in it
Every good story contains conflict (aka, obstacles). Going after the hearts of people is no exception. I’ll need Support of others (I’m finding that others, even friends, may not fully embrace or even understand one’s pursuits and storyline. But, support/involvement of others is critical.); Finances (Just about everything I mentioned takes money. Advertising, Website, facilities, etc.); Involvement (everything from facilities to websites and flyers to people who pray must be coordinated, developed, and enlisted. Involvement is core to every aspect of these events.); and lastly, Motivation (personally, this is tough as there are tremendous distractions in my life. There is always temptation to pursue less. But even more difficult is motivating Men/Women to attend. It was incredibly hard last year to reach people. Even though they are hungry for more out of life, distraction and resignation make formidable enemies. Many people who wanted to attend… who needed to attend… did not. I do not want them to be left out again.
What I hope for
I began to organize my thoughts into this post when I read about a “contest” on Miller’s Blog to attend his “Living a better Story” seminar. And, my hope is by attending the seminar that… well… I will. Live a better story, that is. And, I want to learn to sustain a better story. I want the chance to take a step back from my own story and to begin to see it with some perspective and objectivity. My college writing Professor always said we should “be ruthless with your editing!” Never hold even a single word back. If it doesn’t move the story forward, edit it. There are times when this is easy to do alone, and times when you need an outside “set of eyes” to look over your writing. And that is what I’m hoping this seminar will do for us — be a second look, add perspective, provide the help I need to edit out some of the gaps in my story.
In “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, Donald Miller admonishes us to “decide to do something!”… then to tell everyone so we can’t change our mind. So, that is what I’m doing. I’m sharing this publicaly because I don’t want to hold anything back.
I hope the same for you. Take some time to consider what YOU want. Be specific. Don’t be completely “realistic”… dream a bit. Then tell everyone what you’ve discovered.