In my last post I revealed that our family had some big news to share. This is part 1 of a 3-part series that will fill in some of the background that led to this path and where we think this path is leading us for now.
A Spark: The concept of life as story
The last few years I have been increasingly aware of the concept of story and how we each communicate a story to the world through the life we live. This thought is inspiring, for sure, but it's also very sobering. I have one shot at life on earth to tell a story. Am I telling a good one?
Over the same period, there have been a series of God-orchestrated moments which led me to examples of what makes a good story out of a meaningful life. My favorite band, Jars of Clay, played a role in a documentary, Sons of Lwala, which introduced me to some pretty amazing human beings who are using their lives, not just their leftovers, to tell a good story.
From that connection, I learned much about Blood:Water Mission and Lwala Community Alliance which eventually led to a friendship with Daren (latest chapter in his story: RunDarenRun) and ultimately put me on the path to Africa and meeting, supporting and befriending people like Renee of Serving His Children, Nathalie of Foodstep and the Kyomyas of Hesed International, and some of the most passionate and dedicated people I know at Preston Trail. (Go ahead, click on a link or two. I won't blame you if you linger.) I could list so many more people who have inspired me with the stories of their lives, and I am sure I'll get to share more of them eventually.
The bottom line is I wanted to make sure, if each phase of my life served as a chapter in my story, that I wasn't being lazy in writing any of them, hoping the editor wouldn't notice.
Donald Miller, author of the New York Times Bestseller Blue Like Jazz got the chance to help turn the autobiographical book into a movie. He found that exercise was so enlightening that he wrote another book about what he learned from "editing his life." Let me share one of my many favorite passages from this book, which is also a favorite:
“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either” ― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
i probably cannot overstate how that struck a chord within me. It's not that I think lives have to be lived in such an exciting manner that they'd make a blockbuster at the theater, but I do believe our lives should be meaningful, inspiring, evoke emotion, and make a difference that they were lived. Yet so many do seem to settle for a life they are "supposed to live." At least I know that is true for too many modern North American middle class citizens. We go to school in [these] years, for so long, get married within [these] years, have a family of a certain size and work full-time for 40+ years in a row with 2 or 3 or so weeks off a year to do everything from visit faraway family, visit the places you read about and dreamed of, educate yourself on different cultures, create unique memories with your family, relax on vacation, and more. All in those few weeks. If you do one or more of those above mentioned requirements outside the narrow boundaries of 'normal limits,' well...you are crazy. Or brave. Fine line.
After Mark and I had our discussion, we were ready to find out which side of the line we're on.