I’ve been profoundly moved lately as I’m reading Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Miller is an amazing writer, and has this great way of making abstract things, like our Christian faith, feel very practical and common like a comfortable sweatshirt. He’s the Christian J.D. Salinger…with his own persona walking around making observations like Holden Caulfield. This works for me…because I’ve always been a big Holden fan. When I used to teach high school English at Crescenta Valley High School, this was the book I enjoyed teaching above all else. Why? Because the kids could relate to the material…and I could urge them to make profound discoveries about their own lives before they found themselves in a helpless predicament like Holden Caulfield as he scours New York City in the story looking for someone or something to give his life meaning. If you haven’t read Catcher in the Rye, its worth a reading even now. In the story, this lost and lonely adolescent goes looking for what makes his life real and meaningful.
So, the fact that Miller reminds me of Salinger, is a very good thing. Miller draws a parallel between writing a story and the way we live our life. If we aren’t thinking about the story we are writing, we are in danger of missing out on a great story entirely. But the journey can be difficult, like a long kayaking trip. Miller explains…, “Its like this when you live a story: the first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you’re finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn’t seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you’ll paddle for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn’t going to be over soon. The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.”
Then I came to the line that that took my breath away a bit, “The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.” I closed my eyes a bit after reading this and said ‘amen.’ This is how life is…we think it will be about where we someday end up, and yet, its actually about who we are in the journey and the choices we are making in the day to day. My time at Whitworth College was never about the graduation day…by the time I walked across the stage I was already transformed by the experience of attending there. I spent 10 weeks before having my first child in a “birthing class” but then we brought her home and realized I knew nothing about actually being a father. You get my point…it is the journey that shapes us…not the destination.
Miller continues, “I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’ see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward.”
As we journey towards Christ on our journey as Christians, it is easy to feel like we’re not moving forward. We forget that each small step is a paddle dipping into the water, thrusting the boat further in the direction of the desired location. We are moving forward…through the small choices we make every day. This is hopeful…our only role in life is to day by day, continue to reflect Christ to those we love by the small things we do and say and act. Remember what Jesus said? He didn’t urge a fancy mission statement, just love and love others. You can read it here.
I hope your days are full of small strokes in the right direction, and that you are strengthened by the knowledge that you are doing God’s will now. Keep paddling!