I have a long history of stumbling into crazy experiences (i.e., miracles). I have had people give me laptops (Apple laptops!), buy me tickets to the Justice Conference, furnish and decorate my baby's nursery when we were in the hospital trying to survive. After I wrote this post for Deeper Story, I was feeling a little frustrated. We truly DO NOT KNOW what is going on in our lives. And it feels horrible, this here-but-not-here, the endless waiting, the mourning and rejoicing for things that aren't for certain. So I did an old-school evangelical move and got my Bible and sprawled out on the floor with my face in the carpet. I let out all my frustration, detailed everything I felt like God had told me about our future and I didn't understand why things weren't lining up. I want bells and whistles, God! I am making tiny steps towards following you! Tell me what is going on!
Well, then I got bored.
So I went and checked my e-mail. There, I found a free code for Donald Miller's Storyline Conference. I shrugged my shoulders, got a ticket, and continued about my day. It turns out that code was only meant for certain pastors at a certain Blue-Like-Jazz famous church, but when all the dust settled the organizers were cool and said I could come for free. Cue me singing the Amy Grant "Providence" song. Over and over and over again.
Based off the promotional literature, I was skeptical of Storyline. No offense, D Miller, but it all sorta sounds like corporate mumbo-jumbo (vision casting, living a good story). Also, I have been disappointed by enough of my young adult obsessions to know that Mr. Miller isn't God, nor is he even the same person he was when he wrote Blue Like Jazz. He is human, he is flawed, he might have turned into a salesman.
So I went with a mixture of excitement and cynicism (you know, the usual). And I was blown away.
I don't know how much I can write about the conference without it sounding weird or corporate or like white-people-having-an-existential-crisis. But basically, the conference asks you to assess your life and come up with concrete ways to live a better story. You do this by evaluating your past (good and negative turns, and finding redemption in the bad) and narrowing your focus on what roles/ambitions you want. The key here is that your ambitions must be greater than yourself; God is in the business of saving many lives--not making you happy.
What I loved most was the emphasis on how consumerism and the American dream create really boring stories. Nobody cares about these stories. Nobody is saved by these stories. But this is what we are inundated with, all the time. Great stories involve risk and failure and actual concrete adventures. People who are living out these stories are not shopping at Target or watching TV or reading escapist literature. They are out there, writing their own grand adventures.
It was interesting for me to attend this conference a few weeks after I quit my job. It gave me insight into my future and I am still reeling at how practical it all was. I walked away with a spring in my step, firm in my resolve to create some change (and move forward some important plot points) in my own story. I also felt extremely encouraged, and validated on a very deep level for many of the choices I have already made. And I will be changing things in the future, some of which I will write more about in the near future. But if anyone, anyone has found themselves in a situation like I am in, I would encourage them to pursue something like Storyline.
Ah, providence. The past two days have been eye-opening for me. The conference itself is a catalyst for change, for those that are willing to risk it. It is a recipe for failure, in many ways. It is also an outline for kingdom living, for entering into a story that is all about saving many lives.
And this, my friends, is what I want my story to be.