Story and Character
I’m still journaling through “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” Here are some recent thoughts:
Donald Miller writes:
“…you become the character in the story you are living…”
In life I wonder, do I shape the story (of my life) or does the story shape me (the character)? I guess it depends on your views of destiny. I however, am of the belief that my choices determine my destiny. Therefore, I would have to agree with Miller. I know he is right because of my own and other’s life experiences. I play the character of the story I choose to believe about life.
When I have gone through phases where I think life is meaningless (or too difficult and painful to endure) I seek escape. As a character in that story, I tend to disengage with people and relationships that are hard, even though they are people who I love and love me back. I run from the pain within and the relational wounds that need healing. I also find that I become lazy in areas of personal growth (spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and vocationally). In these times, I blame my state of being on my circumstances, but in all reality (though many circumstances are outside our control) I am the one who chooses how to perceive and respond to these circumstances based off the story I believe about life.
An extreme example that makes my point clearer: Viktor Frankl was an Austrian-born Jew and concentration camp survivor. While living in the dismal and horrific conditions of the concentration camp, Frankl held on to the story that life had meaning…even in suffering. As fellow inmates gave up their faith and contemplated suicide, Frankl (while suffering alongside them) tried to encourage and uplift them. While many psychologists of his day believed humankind’s primary concern was happiness and pleasure, Frankl believed that at the depths of all humankind was the search for meaning and purpose. During his time as a Nazi prisoner, Frankl encouraged and spread love and life and meaning to as many as he could (even as “his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished” ). He was a beacon of light because of his choice to belive life had meaning. He went on to publish the book he had been working on while a prisoner after the war was over. It is titled “Man’s Search for Meaning.” His book is listed by the Library of Congress as one of the ’10 most-influencial books’ in America. At the time of his death, over 10 million copies had been sold in 24 languages. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a powerful read.
So, I come back to my original point. We play the characters in the stories we choose to believe.
When I choose to believe, like Frankl, that life has meaning–that even suffering has meaning–I can endure and push into things I couldn’t when I believed a different story. I’m not trying to romanticize suffering. Suffering is horrid no matter what story one believes. It is a terrible evil that I hope and believe will one day come to an end. I believe our past and present sufferings are a result of the stories humankind has decided to live by. Stories of meaninglessness and injustice. I think that if we allow it, suffering will transform us into people who live better stories. People who live out love and justice. People who press into their’s and other’s sufferings so that it might be redeemed. Suffering, unfortunately (or fortunately), is the only way we learn from our mistakes. And only by pressing into our pain while holding onto the story that life has meaning, can we find the redeemed and renewed life in God that we were always meant to have.
I think Christ’s death and resurrection is the perfect example, and the way that Frankl, Miller, and many other prophets are pointing.
When I press into all of life’s pain through the power of Christ’s salvation, I find meaning in my sufferings, and I find that I am being transformed into one who is truly alive.
So, the question remains for you and I: What story do we live by? If we want to know, we can look at the characters we are playing.
A short bibliography (for some of the historical references):