Thursday, August 5, 2010

thoughts on "living a better story" PART 1

Life seems such an adventure when you're traveling about. You feel excited about exploring new places, seeing new things, and even the little moments have a tinge more mystery to them than usual. It's pretty much the way I felt for an entire semester back a few years ago when I studied in London. Around every bend seemed to be something fun and new to do, and that season of life was filled with exploration. The hard part, though, is finding the adventure when you're not traveling about. Which is exactly where I am.

Summer is always the time when everyone is moving around. Vacations, mission trips, weekend trips, moving to a new city. Summer seems to be a great time to do all those things. And usually I'm right there with all the other travelers. But not so this year.

I don't think I would have appreciated Wendell Berry's writing while I spent my semester in London. His is a writing style that embraces a two-feet on the ground kind of approach to life, that rooted "I am here", "I know every inch of this property" philosophy of life that seems kind of old-fashioned. Until you are in the thick of it yourself.

There are times for moving, times for exploring, and times for growing in the shoes you are already in. Ecclesiastes says there's a time for everything, and maybe this is what it's hinting at. It's much easier to look back fondly at the adventurous times in life and gloss over the more ordinary bits. I can spend hours remembering London but I have a hard time doing the same with other parts.

I've noticed a trend in people my age, and maybe I guess just "my generation" in general. A trend of wanting to "live a better story". I don't know where it started, and I'm pretty sure it's not just something that's sprung up in the last few years or so. But it's been gaining a head of steam, and it's cropping up in books and blogs and all sorts of other media. I've sort of latched on to it myself because I really like a lot of things about it. But I've become equally wary of it as well over the course of the summer.

If all I do is think about how to live a better story and then go and pat myself on the back when I go and do adventurous or bold things, I don't think I'm doing anything other than seeking to fill an empty void. A carpenter doesn't spend all his time transfixed by the beauty of his hammer, unable to work, and then when he actually does use the hammer, stop and marvel at its power. No, he rather gets on with it. He makes things.

Maybe this whole thing about wanting to live a better story is really just a lack of faith that God can work in the mundane and ordinary parts of life. I certainly do want my life to count for something greater than what I can do on my own, and I want people to see Christ in my actions. But sometimes it's not about helping another person. Sometimes it's about confronting the great fear and doubt and uncertainty raging inside my own heart, the fear that maybe God isn't actually working in my life. Sometimes it's about slowing down enough to be in communion with him, to be still with him. To find him in the everyday, the ordinary, the plain.


Sarah said...

Hello there. Nice post. I agree - sometimes I think the mind-numbing number of opportunities (jobs/travel/entertainment) sends the message that if we're not out doing something big, we're not living well. It's the idea that the more you do and the more dramatic it is, the better your story.

W. Berry has really mentored me in thinking about the fact that a well-lived life is a faithful one. That good stories come into being through people investing creativity and care into the smallest moments of ordinary life.

Thanks so much for reminding me of this!

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