Author Don Miller hit the big-time in 2003 with his best-selling memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Not sure why I never read it. BLJ remains wildly popular, especially within contemporary Christian circles, primarily because it challenges virtually every notion of what it means to be a true Christian. Intrigued by the author as much as the story, some movie guys came on the scene in hopes of producing a film about Miller’s life. The experience of co- writing the screenplay profoundly impacted him. So much so, that in 2009 he wrote A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. I’m glad he did, because Don Miller’s latest book has profoundly impacted me.
Imagine what it would be like to rewind your life (like a video) and edit all the parts to match the life of your dreams. A “do-over”, so to speak. That’s what writing his own screenplay was like for Don Miller. His cinematographer said it best –“You know. Just to dream it all up again. Everybody wants to go back, man. Everybody wants to make it right. We get to edit your story so it has punch and meaning. That has to be an incredible feeling.” While it turned out to be an incredible experience, Miller’s initial feelings were anything but. Unlike a good movie that is always going somewhere, Miller had to face the sad truth that his life wasn’t really going anywhere. In a word…boring.
The epiphany came when the real Don realized that “in creating the fictional Don, I was creating the person I wanted to be, the person worth telling stories about”. And, in so doing, he could actually re-create his own real life story. No, he couldn’t go back, but he could dramatically change his future story line…and he did.
Like any memorable story, Miller’s recreation of his future story wasn’t easy. After all, good stories are about characters facing their greatest fears with courage. That involves lots of conflict and often life-threatening situations. Great stories often have surprise endings, so their characters must deal with uncertainty and insecurity throughout. Don Miller learned that there’s nothing easy about living a storied life, but neither is anything more rewarding.
Miller does a masterful job of weaving the elements of a good story (pain, positive turns, memorable scenes, tragedy, etc.) into the process of re-writing his own. He handles the pain of meeting the father who abandoned him thirty years ago. He takes a positive turn by taming the demons that declared him fat and non-athletic since early childhood. He enjoys many memorable scenes with his first true love, then tragically loses her. Along the way, Miller found that “the idea that a character is what he does remains the hardest to actually live”.
A Million Miles In A Thousand Years is an inspiring true life story about how to live with purpose and intentionality. It’s about waking up one day and simply refusing to accept what the magnet on the refrigerator says…”Same s–t, different day”. The fridge is only half right. For anyone who’s ever dreamed of a do-over, I urge you to stop dreaming and start reading Miller’s latest book. It just might inspire you to start living the life you’ve thus far only dreamed about. Now that would be a great story!