Sunday, April 11, 2010

writing like my life depended on it

I've spent my entire day so far reading. I read Father Fiction and I'm about a quarter of the way through A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Plan to finish this one too. Right now what's sticking out to me is a passage about how God made every person, placed each of them in a womb to grow and then be introduced to life for seventy years or however long, just waking up and learning. He talked about each of us, individually, being a part of the whole story God wrote. And I started thinking about just how many people that would mean. Six billion something now? Plus all the people who have ever been alive, and I'm sure someone much smarter than me has estimated this number, but imagine that.

The first thing that came to mind, honestly, was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and all those kids they've adopted, plus their own. Brangelina's brood, I've heard them called. And that word for some reason, when paired with the idea of God having all these children and how he loves us so much that one or two wasn't enough, is delightfully and wonderfully funny to me. The internet tells me that this is how many people who've ever been born: 106,456,367,669. This brood of a hundred billion people, a hundred billion kids God made because he loved us all so much.

I've been in my head all day with these two books and Blue Like Jazz. I sat down and read Father Fiction straight through, and I'll tell you, I identify so strongly with Don Miller that I feel like he's taken the inside of me and strung it into words. I don't just mean the issue of growing up fatherless. I mean that, and I also mean how he related to God both emotionally and intellectually, how he grew through certain things, struggled with others, the things that he learned.

This last one, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is about writing your own story. This has been coming up lately, in conversation, in a friend's blog. When I was seventeen, a few weeks before I left for college, I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about a certain passage in--I think--the end of John where he says that if it were written all the things Jesus did then there wouldn't be room in all the world for the books there'd be. What it boiled down to was living a life worthy of writing about. This struck me doubly because I've always wanted to write and when he said that I felt like I should write, I ought to.

And now more than ever I want to write like Don Miller. In the last few months or semester or so, I've gotten so tired of writing blogs because I write about myself an awful lot, just about everything I write. And he says this too about the sort of book writing he does: "It gets wearisome, all the bellyaching and feeling and thinking about the world and how you interact with it... Who thinks they are so important they need to write books about themselves... and how did I become one of them?" But then there was also a part he was talking about in the introduction to Father Fiction, how it was hard to write about certain parts because he didn't want to go there, and even though there are lots of places I will go, there are some I will not, I don't want to go anywhere near. I don't want to write about them, I don't want to deal with them. They become the highlight-delete, the torn out pages, but even in my heart I know it doesn't really work that way. And even while I already don't want to, and added to that that am tired of writing anything to do with myself, I feel like there's a place for that in my life (maybe not here, don't worry) and I can't just be through with it.

Somewhere in all this living and writing and all of us feeling around and trying to figure out what the heck we're doing and why we're doing it, I go back and wonder how the story of a hundred billion people will look when the whole thing is finished. I know major themes will be redemption and grace, and even now I understand why I hate stories and movies that are hopeless and do nothing but get worse until they crash into the ground. There is a reaching God across a reaching chasm. It gets ugly here in the world, but something beautiful is coming to light it up again.

Here in the end I don't remember where I was going with any of this. Just that reading Don Miller makes me want to write like my life depended on it, and if you look at it the right way, maybe it does.