Until I get that long awaited Heaven-sent confirmation that my future wife is Carrie Underwood’s newly-cloned twin sister, she has never provided any reason for me to give her much thought. However, as I sat in the airport diner waiting to leave Nashville, her song “Jesus Take the Wheel” came on and I smiled a bit as I thought about it. No, this isn’t one of those types of blog posts.
There are times in life that the valleys we experience provide us with no other choice but to leave it in His hands, but after attending the Storyline Conference with Donald Miller, I have to wonder if that cliché has been tremendously abused.
The promotional video on the website warned that I should prepare to see life in a completely different light once I left the conference and, frankly, I shrugged it off as a typical, desperate claim by an organization, grasping at straws, trying to account for the expensive ticket price just to get in the door. Parts of me wondered, after not having taken any type of real vacation in years, why it was that I was choosing to spend hundreds of dollars for what could be a hokey, over-priced motivational conference with big promises and very little substance.
Boy, was I wrong.
I flew away from Nashville realizing, for the first time in my life, I serve a sovereign God who not only has power over my life, but also gives me complete control to create a fascinating story through all the gifts that He bestows. As I left the diner, I couldn’t help but think of all the Christians that sit there in their car on the 45-degree hill that is life, throw it in neutral, and begin to roll backwards with their hands in the air belting out, “Jesus, take the wheeeeeel!”
I make it a habit not to put words in God’s mouth but I wonder if He’s ever said in response,
“I put YOU in the driver’s seat, goofball. Throw it in drive and take the wheel yourself. I’ll be right here beside you.”
Storyline challenges attendees to take a pro-active, authoritative approach to their lives. Instead of waiting for God to “bippidi-boppidi-boo” us into a Cinderella ready for the ball, Miller challenged us to use our God-given wisdom to create an exciting life of risk, momentary failure, and ultimate triumph that could be told through a compelling story. Never have I heard such an emphasis on the importance of conflict and risk in our lives, as situational failures are often the most effective teachers for creating the heroic, purpose-filled characters that we strive to be.
Over the two days, I engaged in some of the most productive self-examination I have ever done. Suddenly I found myself asking what type of theme I will want to be said that my life consisted of. At this very moment, am I doing anything to build a plot towards that theme? Miller challenged us to seize the opportunities, the risks, and the characters in our lives that we meet along the way that build towards the climax that we seek. Where others have told me to dream big, Storyline taught me to DO big.
Just as important, he challenged us, as authors of our life stories, to make tough decisions and cut out the friends and activities that don’t contribute to the climax. Along with those challenges, He provided a presentation wealthy in vital, relevant information and entertainment. His witty brilliance and knowledge of pop culture created two-hour instructional sessions that seemed like fifteen minutes each.
The conference concluded with an interview between Donald and attorney/author/speaker Bob Goff. I had the privilege to bump into Bob and his wife, Maria, at the Nashville airport. As someone who is rarely impressed, I was dazzled by the authenticity of Bob’s love for life, Christ, and people. From choosing to office out of Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland to fighting witch doctors in Uganda to taking a small family parade down his street and turning it into an empowering symbol of love for over a thousand attendees each year, Bob Goff is a smiling, white-haired, real-life Peter Pan of men. I highly recommend his book, Love Does.
I left with a new and refreshing zeal for life and the possibilities that it holds. No longer do I want to be the man that arrived in Nashville, scared that every potential decision is a pitfall or detour from God’s destiny for my life rather than a potential beautiful adventure of discovery. I now have a license to create opportunities that build towards His purpose.
Most of all, I came to the realization that even in our differences and disagreements, the sons and daughters of God are just like the stars that Miller wrote about in his famous book Blue Like Jazz: “…like notes on a page of music free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.”
No matter how different, we’re all a special note in the symphony of free-form music He created, left with but two central tasks: to create and to love.
*Photo credit: fPat