Times of disorientation are critical to our character transformation

Written by on November 28, 2011

Few recent books have helped communicate the transforming power of understanding our lives as a story than Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life (Thomas Nelson, 2009).  While working on the movie adaptation of his previous memoir-like book Blue Like Jazz,Miller discovers that what makes for a compelling story is the same thing that makes for a compelling life. He begins the book with this provocative short scenario:

If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful. [1]

In short, Miller confronts the readers with the question, are we living a good story or have we settled for something far less? According to Miller the central reality of a good story is character transformation. The character in the story faces all sorts of challenges and tests along the way, but he or she is able to courageously face them and thereby change and grow through them. Miller wonders whether we weren’t primarily, “designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.  The point of the a story is the character arc, the change.”[2]  Sure there are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve, but perhaps the greatest thing in our development is who we are becoming along the way.  And somehow God then delights in using who we are along the way to accomplish “greater things than these” (John 1:50). In particular this week we are mindful of those seasons of disorientation in our life stories. Regardless of who we are, we come to times when life simply does not make sense. Maybe it feels like we are walking off the map, entering wholly unfamiliar territory in our lives. Or there is a reversal of sorts, an experience of great loss in which all that we know to be true seems to now be in doubt. Or for others of us we encounter a holding pattern, a period of time in which we feel suspended from the “normal” trajectory of life and ministry. These disorienting times hold great potential for character transformation in our stories. How we react to them determines in part whether the potential energy that these times release will prove to be productive or unproductive, constructive or destructive to our formation. This Thursday from 10-11am CST we will be hosting a webinar entitled, “Crucibles: Times of Disorientation in a Leader’s Life.”We will be discussing the critical importance of how to prayerfully respond to these disruptive times in our lives. If we are at all concerned with living a good and faithful story or with helping others do the same we will be become familiar and adept at walking through such seasons of disorientation. RESERVE YOUR WEBINAR SEAT NOW! Share this blog entry with other church leaders who you think might benefit from reflecting upon God’s critical character shaping work in these disorienting seasons of our lives. Blessings on the journey…

[1] Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, (Thomas Nelson, 2009), xiii.
[2] Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 70.

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