January 24, 2007

A Dangerously Good Story

Posted in life, stories at 7:41 am by jimazing

From the book To be Told by Dan Allender, PhD. (all emphasis is mine). (Thanks for loaning it to me, Curtis.)

Death is Not the Ending

We all believe we can’t die because we simply have too much left to do. We have children to raise and goals to achieve and appointments in our PDA for next week. There is obviously a natural resistance to considering one’s own death, but what i am saying is far more than “I don’t want to face the fact that life will not last.” The harder question by far is, “Does my life really have meaning?

No matter how i try to escape the reality of death, I know I will die. But do I really know what meaning my life is meant to have? It turns out the Christians are the most difficult people to interact with regarding those questions. They know that heaven is ahead and that their life is significant. they are so sure of this that they seldom allow themselves to doubt or question the precise meaning of their own life. The result is an unexamined life.

Their assumption is simple: if i live a good life, love my kids, do my best at work, support the PTA and the church and my kid’s sports, then my life will have been good. But is this a good ending as God views endings? It’s not a bad ending, but it misses what any truly good ending requires–the ardor and the sacrifice, the passion and the blood.

We are responsible for writing our story, including our ending. The difference between living well versus writing well is that writing requires me to face the fact that my first draft is a mess, needs significant editing and requires much more honest, depth and passion. Yet for most people, living well means simply doing our best according to the standards of our culture. Am I really willing to move toward the kind of meaning that far exceeds being a “good” person? Am I ready to embrace the true meaning of my life and head to a wildly full ending?

There are people who ask the question of whether their life has meaning and those who don’t. The former group seems to think that those of us in the latter group are too sensitive. I find myself fully in the latter group. I care if my life has meaning. I want it to be a good story. Not a “Disney” good story, where the ugly stuff is cleaned up and the characters are flattened enough that so kids will understand it and their parents will let them watch it. I want to be one of those novels that is a good read. As I write those words, I cringe. I know that the good books are full of uncomfortable events. Do I really want that? Am I asking for discomfort? Not really, but I want the rich life that comes from living life to the fullest. Do you remember Aron Ralston who amputated his own arm to save his own life when he was pinned between rocks on a hike? Now he has a story! (I have two arms). Would he give up his story to get his right arm back? I wonder.

How is it that my knowing that my life is significant contributes to a life of less significance. So many of us look for comfort and convenience over substance and meaning. We would rather keep up with all the latest TV shows than live life to the fullest. We would rather watch someone else’s drama than be part of a drama. There’s a part of me that chafes at the thought of discomfort and pain. It’s only natural. Pain tells me something is wrong. But comfort lulls me into feeling safe and secure. I love this quote of Helen Keller (what a story she had!):

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

A daring adventure to live. A story to tell. In the quote above by Dan Allender, he talks about the need for realizing where I am in my story, that there are so many problems with my rough draft. I need more depth and passion… but it isn’t a rough draft at all. I don’t get to erase the chapters that didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I can help to write new chapters that address them.

I am asking myself anew, “Am I ready to embrace the true meaning of my life and head to a wildly full ending?” I want to be more and more of me and at the same time grow more into the reality of “Christ in me, my hope of Glory” Colossians 1:27. I want to say Yes.


  1. Paul said,

    I think that there has to be a balance between two extremes, the first being settling for the life that we have and accepting a mediocrity that measures up as “pretty good” by the standards of this world, and the second being a pessimistic dissatisfaction with the life that we have, beating ourselves up for not being all that we could and should be. In the middle is an open-eyed realism that recognizes shortcomings and works to overcome them without allowing them to take undue importance.

    Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:5-9

    I love this promise that despite my defects, if I work to grow in godly character, I will not be ineffective and unproductive in the Lord. This is indeed the work of “Christ in me, the hope of glory”.

  2. jimazing said,

    Thanks for your comment, Paul. From what I know of you, I think in many ways you are living a dangerously good story. I wonder if you can see the struggle of those of us who have chosen tamer paths.

    ‘But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually-their paths were laid that way, as you put it… I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

    ‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale… The people in it don’t know…’

    Like this conversation between Sam and Frodo, sometimes we don’t realize what an exciting tale we are a part of. We are being drawn by God into a real adventure, but it can be uncomfortable.

    An important part of my being the co-author of my story is realizing and being honest about the story that I have been a part of so far. My intention on this blog is to be as authentic as I can be and to share with my family my hopes, my dreams, my failings, my humanity. I find myself lately wondering what my parents and grandparents and great grandparents… were like at my age. Thankfully, I can still talk to my parents, but I will never know the hopes, dreams, failings, aspirations of my ancestors. I want to give my great-great grandchildren something that I want but can never have.

    I hope to inspire and as I tell my tale, to simultaneously tell my part of their tale… because I am a part of their tale.

  3. Dan said,

    I believe most people do not examine their life because they are afraid of what the answer will be. It is much easier and safer to meseaure you life by your daytimer and local standards you encounter. Self examination takes TOO much courage and does not promote conformity that society seems to demand. Most people spend their life trying to avoid being out on a limb, discomfort, exposure, danger. I speak from experience. I hope I will someday be able to withstand a self examination.

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