20-year-old Shane Missler recently claimed the $451 million Mega Millions jackpot. He chose to receive his winnings in a one-time, lump-sum payment of $281,874,999. With it he “hopes to do good for humanity.
I hope he does. He has money in abundance. We like things in abundance, don’t we? Can you imagine the lottery officials giving Missler his first million and then asking, “Do you want us to give you the other $280+million?” and him answering, “No. That’s fine. You can keep the rest.”
We like abundance. So does Jesus. He said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” But what Jesus is not talking about the “stuff” of life that we buy and accumulate that can get old and rust and get torn up. The life he is talking about is called zoe in the Greek language. It is a life that has to do with quality. For sure zoe life includes the physical things we need in life (or bios life in the Greek). But that’s not much of a life by itself. People who have an abundance of “things” can still be miserable. Zoe life includes the spiritual things we need for life that makes our lives alive and vital.
The “abundant life” Jesus talks about is the kind of life that makes a great story. Jesus’ life is a great story and we can learn from it how to write a better story for our lives. Donald Miller writes about life stories in his book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” (Read the book. It will inspire you to work on your own story.) His premise is that there are certain tools storytellers use to write great stories. We can utilize those tools to write good stories for our lives too. If you believe you can write a better story than the one you are living now, here are the components you need for a great story.
Every story is built around a lead character and other characters. You are the star of your story. That means you have to give it life. Start moving. “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands…” Jesus knew when it was time to leave the carpentry shop and begin his ministry.
When the time was right he began to write.
He gathered twelve to be with him by praying all night. We live in an isolationist culture where our connection is through texts and tweets. But great stories have other characters in them. You can write a better story this year by developing relationships.
The lead character has to want something. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted. Before his crucifixion he prayed: “Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you…” Jesus knew his death on the cross would glorify God.
What is it you want in life? And will what you want glorify God? A great story finds its main character wanting something and then pursuing it. When we are not experiencing a better life as Jesus came to give, it is because we have not decided what it is we want. What we want needs to be good—something that will do good for humanity—and it needs to glorify God, not us.
In the pursuit of what we want, every character must go through conflict. Jesus did. Right after his baptism he went to the wilderness and was tempted. Through it his character is strengthened as well as his resolve.
You and I need conflict in our stories to live better stories. Want to lose some weight this year? It won’t come without conflict with some weights or walks or runs at night. Want to grow in your relationships? It won’t come without some hard talks and lengthy listening. Conflict moves our stories along.
And finally, stories must resolve. “[Jesus knew] … that he was going back to God.” Jesus knew where he was going. His beginning, his passion for what he wanted, and the conflict he endured all resolved when he ascended into heaven. He used his authority that was given to him to write a story that had room for you and me.
Our stories will resolve one day too. How do you want your big story to resolve on your last day? Before then and along the way, we have mini-episodes that resolve. You wanted to lose 10 pounds and you set as a goal to run in a 5K by a certain time and you did. Better yet, you wanted to let go of anger so you got some counseling—which surfaced some internal conflict—and you have found yourself more calm.
Want to write a better life story this year? You can learn to tell your story in a way that gets a conversation going. Tell about the main character. Then tell what you want. Share a struggle to get there and end with where you see the story resolving.
That’s it. So start writing. Write one page a day. And don’t stop until the story is over.
Question: What conflict will you engage to make a difference in your story?