In the novel, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, New York Times bestselling author, Donald Miller tells an inspiring story of how his friend Jason saved his family.
It goes something like this:
Jason’s marriage had lost its spark and recently, he and his wife had found pot in their thirteen-year-old daughter’s bedroom. (Not a good scene.) To add salt to the wound, their daughter, Rachel, was also dating an older guy. Jason did not care for this guy and thought he was the catalyst in her decision to smoke pot.
One night while Donald Miller and Jason were hanging out together, Jason opened up and shared a lot of his troubles with his friend. In the middle of this intense conversation Donald casually stated, “She is living a terrible story.” Jason wondered what he meant by that statement and Donald went on to share what he had recently learned about what makes for a good story.
And that’s where this part of the story ends.
A couple months later, Donald ran into Jason who enthusiastically told him that his daughter, Rachel, was doing very well because his family was now living a better story.
This of course sparked Donald’s curiosity and he asked what had happened over the last couple months. Jason shared with Donald how he could not get to sleep after the conversation they had that one night. The idea of “a story being a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it” weighed on his mind as he reflected on his family and the story they were presently living.
He went on to confess that he realized Rachel was not playing the best role in her story because of the modeling and choices, he, as her father, was making. And because he was not intentional about the type of story his family could live, his daughter was creating another story for herself; one with risk, one where she was wanted – even if it was for another person’s gain.
(Remember: Our deepest need as human beings is to be loved, accepted and valued.)
Jason went on to tell Donald that this personal discovery ignited a fire within him to take action toward writing a better story. Therefore, after further research and soul searching, Jason came home from work and called a family meeting. He explained to them the concepts of a good story and how they as a family were going to write a new story for their lives. One of the results of this new story was the plan to leave the comforts of their home and help build an orphanage. This conversation did not go over well as Rachel stormed out of the room in tears and his wife, Annie, sat in silence, not knowing what to think, say or do.
However, over the next few days things began to change.
Annie began to express a new heartfelt affection toward Jason and she told him how proud she was of his courageous decision to write a new story for their family. Their daughter, Rachel, noticing the change in her parent’s relationship, asked if they could go to Mexico to help build an orphanage and if it would be okay for her to write about the experience on her new blog.
Shortly after that, Rachel dumped her boyfriend and stopped smoking pot.
The art of writing a better story begins with embracing the greatest gift and strength you have: the power of choice.
Jason made a choice after that late night talk with Donald. He made a choice to stop arguing with his daughter about the choices she was making in her life. He made a choice to stop blaming his wife for the state of their marriage. He made a choice to risk everything and begin the journey of crafting a new and compelling future for his family.
This path that Jason and his family embraced is not for the faint of heart. It is a path that will ask you to let go of the things to which you hold so tightly – the very things from which you derive your sense of identity, certainty and significance. However, it is also a path that will open your eyes to a whole new world, quicken your body and mind, challenge your resolve and free you to live, love and grow.
“I am not what happened to me,” Carl Jung stated, “I am what I choose to become.”
Today’s Unitas Project:
- I invite you today to set aside some quiet time for yourself; maybe at a favorite coffee shop, bookstore, your home office, a park, or wherever works well for you.
- During this quiet time write out your preferred future. In our post, Four Spiritual Questions to Nurture Breakthrough Results, we discussed that the secret to experiencing a fulfilling and meaningful life is to learn how to craft a compelling future, and then, with grace and courage, carry it through.
- To that end, we need to write the script. Take as much time as you need, this does not need to be finished in one sitting. However, commit to yourself to completing this project – after all, this is your life we are talking about.
- To really knock this out of the park, write your preferred future from the position of being in it. Fully step into your preferred future three years from today and write from this viewpoint.
- Write about your story over the last three years – where you are now living, the type of house/apartment you are living in, the vehicle(s) you are driving, the vacations you have recently taken and are about to take, where you are volunteering, what you are learning, the quality of your relationships, your health and wellness, your finances, your career, how you are using your gifts and passions to help others and what you are discovering about yourself.
- Have fun with this and give yourself permission to run with it – no judgement, no guilt.
- Finally: What action steps could you take today to bring you closer toward your preferred future?
Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.
Photo taken by Alina Joy Photography