Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is an excellent book. A while back I started doing a review of each of the five sections the book is split into, but apparently I got bored with it because I only did three of the five parts... not much of a book review if you ask me. So I picked up the book and found Part Four, and scrolled through some of the sentences I highlighted (I used to like bracketing and underlining but I can't do straight lines so I found highlighting to be less nauseating). And, just like when I first read through it, there are some great points he makes. This is a book by a Christian man about living your life in terms of a story - understanding yourself in a sub-story as he calls it, inside the larger story of God's story of redemption. I loved the whole book but want to focus in on a few points Miller makes in Part Four.
"Joy is what you feel when conflict is over. But it's conflict that changes a person." p. 180
This is everyone's experience, isn't it? Ask someone what has changed their life the most and they will almost inevitably tell you a story (because connecting life events and finding meaning in them is telling a story) about something very difficult in their life. The divorce of their parents, the abandonment of friends, the death of someone they loved, the loss of a physical ability, losing a job, and so on. The pain is not nice and it's usually not enjoyable, but it is what changes people. Going through hard times, particularly as a Christian, is what instills the Gospel even deeper into our hearts. And we can look back and see how we became more patient, how we trusted God in deeper ways, how we depended on him every day, and how he formed our character through the crucible of conflict and pain.
"Part of me wonders if our stories aren't being stolen by the easy life." p. 186
The easy life... the "American Dream"... I think these two ideas are synonymous. If you were to get the honest truth out of most of us, especially younger people who haven't had life beat this idea out of them yet, we'd tell you our highest aim is wealth and comfort. We want to work enough to make enough to eventually not have to do anything. We want to retire young, get that second (or third) home in whatever idealized area of the world we want to move to, and we think that's the dream. But it isn't. It's boredom. It's ridiculous. It's insanity. The easy life, or the dream of the easy life, robs us of wonderful stories our lives were made to tell of sacrifice, love for God and others, risk taking, and adventure making. God's highest concern for you life is not that you achieve the easy life; it's that you glorify him by mirroring his story of redemption, reconciliation, and grace to the broken, unreconciled world around you. And the more we tolerate the easy life's empty promises
"Growing up in church we were taught that Jesus was the answer to all our problems." p. 203
Isn't he, though? No, actually, he's not. And he never promised to be. Miller makes a great point as he recounts his Christian experience after believing the lie that Jesus fulfills every longing we could ever have here on earth. He talks about how Jesus is sold like an infomercial - "If you'll just believe in Jesus and let him in your heart, he'll bring you everything you long for and keep the bad stuff away." But that's B.S. if I've ever heard it (if you're not sure what that stands for, think about it some more. If you're still not sure, ask your parents. If you are a parent, just ask me). There is a longing that each of us has for full redemption, when pain and sadness and death is completely swallowed up. The good news is that God does promise that to us - just not in this life. God does fulfill us, but he doesn't answer all our questions this side of Heaven and all of our problems aren't necessarily solved. Jesus is our hope, our Savior, our redemption and our propitiation. Let that be enough, and be satisfied in all he is for you.
This is just a small sampling of some of the quality material in this book. I probably read Miller's books faster than any other author because it flows extremely well, is entertaining, and is always poignant. I recommend ordering it from Amazon sometime soon.