Excerpts from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller

About living a meaningless story

“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 either.” (pg xiii)

“But I’ve noticed something. I’ve never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked out on was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they’ve chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us.” (chp 10)

About living a meaningful story

“I knew from Jason’s story that the same elements that make a movie meaningful are the ones that make a life meaningful. I knew a character had to face his greatest fears. That’s the stuff of good story. I also knew from the McKee seminar that most of our greatest fears are relational. It’s all that stuff about forgiveness and risking rejection and learning to love. We think stories are about getting money and security, but the truth is, it all comes down to relationships. I tried not to think about that stuff, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I knew a story was calling me.” (chp 11)

About putting the character through conflict

“Steve and Ben said we would have to put Don through a lot of conflict or the story would get boring. I didn’t mind putting Don through conflict, because I knew no matter what happened to him we would make things work out before the end. If you think about stories you like most, they probably have lots of conflict. These polar charges, these happy and sad things in life, are like colors God uses to draw the world. Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller. (chp 2)

“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” (chp 17)

About death and what comes after

“The thing about death is it reminds you the story we are telling has finality. My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished. If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died. But my uncle died too soon.” (chp 2)

“The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth. Life isn’t memorable enough to remember everything. After trying to make a list of the things I remember, I realized my life, for the most part, has been a series of random experiences. I wonder if that’s what we’ll do with God when we are through with all this, if he’ll show us around heaven, all the light coming in through windows a thousand miles away… and we’ll sit and tell him our stories, and he’ll smile and tell us what they mean. I just hope I have something interesting to say.” (chp 1)

About being a victim versus a participant

“I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.” (chp 10)

“It’s an odd feeling to be awakened from a life of fantasy. You stand there looking at a bare mantel and the house gets an eerie feel, as though it were haunted by a kind of nothingness, an absence of something that could have been, an absence of people who could have been living there, interacting with me, forcing me out of my daydreams. I stood for awhile and heard the voices of children who didn’t exist and felt the tender touch of a wife who wanted me to listen to her. I felt, at once, the absent glory of a life that could have been. My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams.” (chp 13)

About the purpose of life

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. In nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life, then life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.” (chp 12)

You can find Don Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years here.



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ideas with words (mostly poetry and journals)