Of course the best thing about the desire to want to live a better story is that it reveals a deep hunger in our lives for making an impact, for joining a cause bigger than ourselves. It can be just the right message for someone who’s listless and wandering through life without any kind of anchor. It can also be a good wake-up call when you’ve sort of dozed off at the wheel and gotten too complacent and comfortable with life.
So for all those reasons I think the “living a better story” philosophy has some great things going for it. But I think in the end it’s really just a distraction from a deeper commitment, a commitment that is harder and less glamorous than we might like. One of the great attractions of “living a better story” is that it makes you think of all those stories you love the most. Whether they are tales of adventure, love, war, or whatever, you immediately identify with your favorite characters and think about how awesome it would be to start living a little bit more like them.
But the problem is that most stories highlight the 10% of life and completely gloss over the 90%. The most dramatic scenes are often what we remember the most, but we forget that the decisions made in the most dramatic scenes are cultivated over years and years of making everyday decisions.
N.T. Wright recently penned a book entilted After You Believe which deals with the exact thing I’m referencing. He argues that character isn’t something you make a decision about one day and then immediately become a person of good character. He reminds us that character is forged over time, through days, months, and years of making small, seemingly insignificant decisions.
I’m realizing that when I pay too much attention to the big moments in life (the “most dramatic” ones) I miss so many little things. The decisions I make every day are often so much more significant than how I make them out to be. How I treat people, how I attend to the responsibilities that God has given to me, how I speak and use my time all make up the 90% of life that isn’t so glamorous. I don’t know about you, but most of my days aren’t filled with uber-dramatic moments where I’m deciding on some heroic course of action. But then again maybe they are, but maybe they are hidden in the guise of the plain and simple and everyday.
It’s not that I’m against living a better story. It’s just that I think it’s too weak a philosophy to build your life upon. In the end, as a follower of Christ I am to make him my foundation. My life already has significance and meaning. I don’t have to go around searching for it. Jesus Christ, the Word, the Creator, lives and dwells inside me and has redeemed me from myself (read: sin). He is renewing me everyday, transforming me from the inside out. Even when I can’t see or feel him at work.
And that is where it is sometimes hardest to have faith. That is where my faith has to be placed in Jesus Christ, not myself. So I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that living a better story isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an incomplete thing if it’s not anchored in Jesus Christ.