A Million Miles

Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life is different than his previous books. I'm one of the few that liked Searching for God Knows What better than Blue Like Jazz- though both are fabulous. They're just different. If you haven't read anything by Miller before, do start with Blue Like Jazz, because it will put A Million Miles in context.

From what I remember (I read both the books years ago), Blue Like Jazz was seemingly disconnected stories from Miller's life, with some reflections thrown in, and Searching For God Knows What was mostly reflections, with a few stories. A Million Miles is much closer to a narrative- the stories seem to happen in chronological order, they're less random, and they're tied together much better. Reflections on the stories are woven in seamlessly, and the stories are woven together in such a way the reader is pulled into the narrative along with Miller, as he discovers the meaning of Story in his life.

What does he learn about stories both writing a good story and living a good story? He learns that the core of a story is "a character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it," which he keeps coming back to, and he reflects more deeply on how Story plays out in his own life. Here's a few snippets:
"You don't know a story is happening to you when it starts happening. You slide into the flow of it like the current in the ocean; you look back at the beach and can't see your umbrella and your hotel is a quarter-mile back."

"...the story is not about the ending, but about the story itself, about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle."

"People who live good stories are too busy to write about them."

"The great tragedy of our lives seems to be that we are smart enough to ask the question of meaning but too dumb to really figure it out"

"Lucy [Miller's dog] does not look for a rational explanation for her existence; only humans do that. And I don't think it's something we were designed to do. I think, rather, we were designed to be distracted by life, by story, by naming animals and building huts and loving spouses and giving birth to children, by tending land and fishing streams, by drinking wine and laughing with friends, by enjoying sunset with one another and by fearing snakes and mending cut hands and by enjoying a camaraderie with a God who does not need for us to understand Him, but rather only wanted us to know Him."
That last bit really hit me. I definitely feel like I "get" life, like I'm living a better story and doing more of God's will, when I'm actually living, doing things, rather than striving to figure out (and worry about) minute details about God. Maybe God does want us to fully live life in the story He's put us in, and some of the silly theological arguments and pursuits and unanswered questions are OK to put to rest, trading the academic pursuits for a deeper relationship with Him in all parts of my life.

While learning about what a good story is and what sort of story he ought to be living, Miller actually does start to live an exciting, compelling story- traveling, meeting people, and going on adventures. Instead of vacationing at a Myrtle beach golf course, he climbs a mountain in Peru, bikes across the country, and kayaks with friends. His journey made me look at my own life- what is my story like? Where is it going? What is it I want and what conflict am I overcoming to get it?

The book appears to be (almost) entirely available on Google Books, so check it out there or order it on Amazon. Definitely, definitely worth the read. Possibly his best book yet, seriously. Without a doubt, his best story. Also check out Donald Miller's blog where he posts about being part of God's story, too.

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