Living a good story in the mundane
Ah, Story. It’s still percolating in my mind. Looks like it’s going to be my theme for the summer. As you’re reading this, our family is somewhere between Texas and Oregon, moving to our new home.
The Philippines trip turned me upside-down, and returning to Austin only to box up our possessions into a moving truck flipped me on my side. True to our family’s form, our life has been unpredictable and chaotic the past month.
I’ve talked about living out a good story, and that it’s possible, even with chaos. But what does it look like to live out a good, relevant, gets-me-up-in-the-morning Story when it still just feels like…. regular life?
Because even though it may sound like my life is always adventurous, it really isn’t. We travel a lot, sure, but 90 percent of the time, I’m still mostly about getting dinner on the table by 6 p.m. and making sure my kids don’t watch too much TV. Just like you, I imagine.
Here’s some encouragement that the mundane is still part of a Good Story.
Again, Donald Miller’s A Million Miles has been my inspiration this month. It was a really, really good read (and quick, too). In it, he talks about how some people start off excited, sure that they’re bound for an adventurous, journey-filled life, but that most of us (probably parents) fizzle out after awhile.
“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’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger.”
Do you feel like you’re in the middle of a great big lake? You’re heading in a direction, working hard with the oar you’ve been given, and haven’t given up… But it just feels like you’re not going anywhere. The journey is getting long, and it’s a bit mundane.
I hear you. Every time Kyle and I have a baby, we joke that we’re resetting our clock another 18 years. Three more months of sleepiness nights (minimum, for us anyway). Three more years of diapers. Another precious mouth to feed and body to clothe.
We love it, don’t get me wrong. The fact that we have three children continues to astound me. But I’m not going to pretend that parenting and living the day-in, day-out of raising them is all erupting volcanoes and chasing after the bad guy and falling in love Victorian-style.
It’s a lot of daily grind.
What gives me encouragement, then, is that the daily grind is shaping me into a better character for my story. Easy stuff doesn’t make me stronger. It’s the hard, repetitive challenges that build and shape me into a character worth reading.
Most of life is day-to-day survival — everybody’s is, really. I don’t think we’re made to handle action and adventure nonstop. God’s not in any hurry to build the characters and the setting in order to rush to the climax of the story.
Conflict makes a good story line…
We live in a broken world, so our stories full of character-building will have trials. We’d be naive to expect otherwise. My story is better when I choose to find contentment during the conflict, not when it’s gone.
Think about the movies you love. I’ll bet you none of them star a character who has a conflict-free, only-fun-stuff life. William Wallace has the darn English to contend with. Lizzy Bennett must endure ambiguity, her position in Victorian England, and her mother. Harry and Sally continually try on other relationships while we already know they’d be perfect together.
I often find myself wishing my life were more adventurous, but as soon as conflict heads my way, I’d rather have the simple liturgy of laundry. No life is grind-free, whether that grind looks like dirty diapers or tossing a ring back into the fires of Mt. Doom.
…But so does finding contentment in imperfection.
“We all get worked into a frenzy over things that will not happen until Jesus returns. The truth is, we can make things a little better or a little worse, but utopia doesn’t hang in the balance of our vote or of what products to buy.”-A Million Miles
Finding utopia here on earth is impossible, so it’s not my motivation for living out a good story. I’ll be continually discontent if that’s my goal. Living out who we are as a family and walking together to get there… That’s where the peace in our story lies. Not in escaping hard or boring stuff.
“Who wants to mess with contentment? I might just buy a bottle of wine and listen to a record. I like slower stories these days. I like the simple ones, the ones that play out like art films.” -A Million Miles
Most of the time, my story plays out like an art film, not like a Scottish army wearing blue paint. And that’s okay.
What sort of movie is your life like? How do you find contentment during character-building moments?
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