Invitation to a Better Story

I’ve been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand years, by Donald Miller lately…a quirky, funny, thought provoking read.
An excerpt I especially found myself coming back to is begins as the author is chatting with a friend whose daughter is caught up with a “bad news” boyfriend, and is experimenting with drugs:

“I told him about the stuff I’d learned, that the elements of a story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. Even as I said this I wasn’t sure how it applied to his daughter…she’s just not living a very good story. She’s caught up in a bad one.”

A couple of months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. “She’s better,” he said to me, smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story.

The night after we talked, Jason couldn’t sleep. He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence. “She’s not a bad girl,” my friend said. “She was just choosing the best story available to her.”

I pictured his daughter flipping throughout the channels of life, as it were, stopping on a story that seemed most compelling at the moment, a story that offered her something, anything, because people can’t live without a story, without a role to play. “So how did you get her out of it?” I asked. And I couldn’t believe what he told me next. Jason decided to stop yelling at his daughter and instead, created a better story to invite her into. He remembered that a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.


…So, Jason invites his family to join him in building an orphanage in Mexico, an ambitious project for this average family. After initial horror from his wife, his wife (his distant wife whom he hadn’t gotten along with all that well, for a while) tells him she’s proud of him, allows it was a mistake to spring this on her, and that probably bigger mistakes would be made as they actually took on getting this orphanage built. Their daughter, very much not impressed at first, after a time suggests that they visit the orphanage as it is being built so that she can post pictures on her website.


“And you know what else, man? Jason said, “She broke up with her boyfriend last week. She had his picture on her dresser and took it down and told me he said she was too fat. “…

“…that’s done now,” Jason said, shaking his head. “No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.

Donald Miller (bolded lines mine)

I love this idea of inviting our children to a better story. It got me thinking about what sort of story I have invited myself to be in. Do I like the plot…is the plot big enough with dream to outlast my lifetime, ones that challenge and inspire me to be more than who I am? Do I value the other players, and allow them to develop their characters in ways that grow and challenge themselves and me? Do I want to invite myself into a different story…a better story, one with greater richness?

Are you inspired by the story you have created. Is there a better story you would like to invite yourself into?


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