A friend of mine was recently in America, and she brought me back Donald Miller’s amazing new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years at my request. Here’s what the author’s note says:
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.
A couple years ago, I read something (I can’t remember what) that talked about viewing our lives as part of the grand story that God is telling. That has resonated with me ever since. Is the part I’m playing in that story of any significance, or am I just scenery?
I don’t want to be just scenery.
Scenery blends in, and, if it’s even noticed, it’s forgotten just as quickly.
Scott M. told us a story about a girl who played guitar in a country as her ministry. She was there for several years. When she was asked how many people she’d shared the Gospel with, she was aghast. “None yet, I’m still building relationships.” She hadn’t even taught them any worship songs.
If we don’t take risks, we don’t live meaningful stories. We become scenery, and we’re forgotten. We teach guitar, but neglect the privilege to change a person’s life forever.
So, when OMF went sledding this past Friday, I decided that I was going to take a risk. We went sledding at a skate park that is at the top of a big hill. It has a railing around the top that kids assumedly do tricks on. All night people were sledding down “the safe” part and “the scary (read: fun) part.” I went down the scary part a few times headfirst, which was awesome and terrifying. Then my roommate Jon upped the ante by running and jumping headfirst over the rail and landing on his stomach down the scary hill. He landed it perfectly. It was amazing. “That is so cool and frightening,” I thought.
I think you can see where this is going.
I made Jon go one more time, to see if that clean landing was just a fluke and he’d die a horrifying death this time. He didn’t. It was still awesome. So I backed up, holding the sled in my hand, white-knuckled. Everyone cheering me on. I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer: “God, don’t let me die.” And then I ran.
The first thought that went through my head as I flew through the air was, “What am I doing? I have no idea how to control this thing.” And then I landed. Face-first, flipping end over end down the hill. Some people definitely thought I broke my neck. Somehow, I landed on my feet at the bottom of the hill and shouted, “Yeah!”
Pound-for-pound, this was definitely one of the stupider things I’ve done. But I got an awesome story out of it, a great memory for all the students who attended, and a killer shiner. Risks don’t always end well. But if we don’t take them because we’re afraid of the bad things that can happen, we don’t end up in places like Central Asia and we don’t see people’s lives being changed forever.
We end up as scenery.