I've been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
Donald Miller writes in such a comfortable, easy way. He writes like I imagine he talks -- conversationally. And, he writes like I think. He's real. He shares his insecurities, which is comforting to one who is always wondering if I'm trying hard enough or working enough, or being good enough to everyone.
He says things that gently take me out of my comfort zone. He points out that if we're not satisfied with our "story," then we can do something about it. If we dream of climbing a mountain (I don't), we have to take the step to make that part of our story come true -- not just sit around eating Chunky Monkey and THINKING about it.
And, while it's not a mountain, last night I attended my first neighborhood association meeting. I had enough reasons to stay home, but I really felt like I needed to be in touch with what's happening. Nothing in my life changed dramatically by going to that meeting, but my world became slightly larger. I became slightly less "couch potato-y." I don't know what will come of that meeting, but I wanted my story to be a little bit different than "Carrie wakes up, gets the girls to school, walks the dog, feeds the family dinner, eats some Chunky Monkey while watching t.v. and goes to bed."
Miller also writes about fear and says "...fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life."
I think back on my childhood when I was always too afraid to go waterskiing when I had the opportunity. Fear of failure was the biggest reason, but I was afraid of the creatures in the lake and afraid I might get hurt if I fell and afraid of looking stupid. And, then, when I was in my twenties, I just decided to go for it. The fears didn't completely disappear, but something inside of me urged me on. Turns out, I loved it! I DID fall. Over and over. And, I'm sure I looked pretty stupid, but I actually had fun. One day I tried it again and I didn't fall ...and then I learned how to go outside of the wake! And, I had even MORE fun than I did the first day I tried it. Donald Miller is right.
Later in the book, he discusses The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield says something that I've felt in my gut for years.
"Pressfield says that every creative person, and I think probably every other person, faces resistance when trying to create something good. He even says resistance, a kind of feeling that comes against you when you point toward a distant horizon, is a sure sign that you are supposed to do the thing in the first place. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be, Pressfield believes."
There aren't many times in my life when my whole body tenses up and my heart races and I can't let the feeling go -- that aren't directly connected to a situation in which I KNOW I'm supposed to do or say something that is difficult. When I feel my body react in that way, I've always felt that I had to respond.
Miller tells the story of his climb to Machu Pichu and it's challenges. He says that he could've gone the easy route along the river, but that he appreciated more about the WHOLE trip by doing it the painful, difficult way.
He says: "It wasn't only the pain of the trail that made you appreciate the city; it was the pain of the landscape, steep in the mountains of the Andes, spiraled towers of natural rock, cliffs dropping for a thousand feet to the river. And, the houses, the weight of them and the perfection of their lines, spoke of the many dead Incas who gave their lives to build the city.
"The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than if we'd showed up at the ending an easier way. It made me think about the hard lives so many people have had, the sacrifices they've endured, and how those people will see heaven differently from those of us who have had easier lives."
Lately, I haven't understood why certain things have happened. I don't see the point in the pain. And, while I don't believe that God wishes pain on anyone, I believe he can use it. What Donald Miller says about pain somehow gives me comfort in knowing that God can use that pain to eventually make lives richer and more meaningful. My prayer is just that... That God would take the difficult journey and give rich rewards to those who are struggling right now. That the payoff for the pain would far outweigh the pain itself.
If you want to be pushed outside of your comfort zone and change the story you're currently living, read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Little by little I believe our stories can get better.