On Living a Storied Life

One of my housemates is having a talent show-themed birthday party this weekend and I have been requested to write and perform a dramatic reading of a blog post. Here you go, Nathan!

When I was young, I used to tell people that my goal was to get to the end of my life and have lots of stories to tell. I now know that I was extremely naive and sincerely hope that God disregards this prayer for the remainder of my life. Kidding. Mostly. They say that there’s a Chinese curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” I have come to learn that the good stories, the interesting stories never come from the good times. The best stories, friend, sadly have to be paid for in embarrassment, pain, struggle, and other such pleasant emotions.

Let’s face it: no one really cares to know about all that really delicious donut you ate (unless they’re hoping to eat a similar one soon), the white sandy beach you relaxed on, the mountain you climbed. Describe a perfect sunset moment and you’ll get yawns. Excellent backpacking trip, year spent in Europe, scuba diving in Hawaii? People tune out lest they get jealous. Conversation quickly moves on. But you can hold people rapt describing the time you had to shower your Thanksgiving turkey, lost your trunks at the beach, or wound up at a Turkish police station looking for a missing passport. Our best stories are far more often from our mis-adventures than from our adventures. The times we will reminisce on with a laugh and wear out with the retelling are from our mistakes, missteps, and misunderstandings.

The show “Meat Eater” – a distinctly unexpected source of wisdom – described levels of fun on one episode. The host explained that when rating fun, things like roller coasters, shows, laser tag – cheap thrills – are the lowest form. They are briefly entertaining but soon forgotten. The highest level of fun usually starts off as a disaster. That camping trip where the tent leaked and it wouldn’t stop raining and the entire trip was spent eating soggy crackers and playing cards and laughing under a tarp. The ultimate level of fun: disaster turned on its head. A magical weekend that will never be forgotten. The forging of friendships that will last.

A parallel truth that I’ve been ruminating on lately is that, while we can and often do plan good times, all the best times (and best stories) are accidental (at least on our part). Only God can orchestrate that spontaneous turn that led you down a frighteningly narrow road to a hidden beach and perfect sunset. Only He can bring you to a city that is everything you never knew you were missing but could never have found out yourself. We spend so much of our time and energy trying to fill our days with good plans so we’ll be sure to have lives filled with happiness when the best times always seem to come when we allow God to interrupt our plans with His own version of good. And often He leads us through “disaster” to get there.

What’s the point of all this? Maybe that it’s worth it for all of us to leave a little bit of space in our lives for interruptions. To let spontaneity get the best of us now and then and see what happens. Maybe it’s to lean into those truly disastrous moments with a bit of humor because perhaps, if we can shift the perspective a bit, we’ll someday look back on them as among our best. Maybe it’s that I kind of still hope that at the end of my life, I’ll look back and have stories to tell. And maybe it’s that as I wish you “May you live an interesting life” for your birthday, I mean it as a blessing, not a curse.

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