A Small Story Is No Story at All

The world, the flesh, and the evil one tempt us to settle for the smaller story: a narrow quest to arrange for the happy little life. Yet something deeper in us knows that a life arranged only for a sense of comfort, security, and personal happiness is far too small to hold the expanse for which the masculine soul was designed to thrive.

Morgan Snyder, Becoming a King

Great stories involve action. There are epic battles, intrigue, and a fight between good and evil. Lives are put on the line in an effort to reach the goal, save the world, and set the captives free.

Stop for a second and take a look at your life. Are you living a great story? Or have you arranged “for the happy little life” Morgan talked about above?

Let me ask it a different way. If your life was made into a movie, would anyone come and watch it?

If I’m completely honest, I wouldn’t go watch the movie of my life. I’m not a very interesting character. I live what amounts to a pretty regular, comfortable life.

For the most part I’m okay with that. I live my life by a set of processes that I am comfortable with. I don’t get out of my comfort zone too much. I’m fairly content with where I am right now.

And therein lies the problem.

There is no growth in contentment

The thing with being comfortable or content is that nothing happens. Which, at the end of the day, is what you’re going for. There are no surprises. There is no learning or growth. Nothing catches you off guard. You’ve got it all planned out and everything is going according to plan.

Happy and content to stay where you are there is nothing to push you to get better. There is nothing motivating you to advance your life past where you are right now.

But here’s the crux: there is no growth in contentment; no advancement in satisfaction.

The sooner we realize that there is no top level in the game of life the better off we’ll be. There is no such thing as “arriving.” There is always another level, another thing to learn, or another way to grow. You will never know all there is to know and you will never reach the top of anything. There is always someone bigger, better, or stronger than you.

Your life wants to plateau

In exercise, people talk a lot about hitting a plateau. That point where your body just stops reacting to what you’re doing. It seems that no matter how hard you work or what kind of diet you are on, nothing changes.

When you hit this point you have a couple of choices. You can continue to do what you’ve always done … what’s comfortable … and live with the realization that nothing will change. Or … you can change things up. You can do something different. Try a different exercise program. Change up your diet. Even something as simple as just increasing your weights in the gym. When you do this your body notices that something is different and has to react. That’s when you bust through that plateau and continue on your journey.

The trick is that you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to grow. You have to be willing to tear your muscles in order for them to get bigger. You have to be willing to run faster, further, or harder than you’ve run before to see a different result. It hurts. It’s not much fun. But no growth ever is.

Searching for stasis

You see, your life (like your body) is constantly is search of stasis. It wants a happy place where it knows what is going to happen and can handle the things that are coming. Your life, if left to its own devices, wants to plateau.

It wants comfort. It wants contentment. It wants stability.

But stability, in the end, means death.

You’ve probably heard stories of men and women that die soon after they retire. What happened? Why did they die so soon? I believe it’s because they’ve done all they are going to do. They don’t have anything else to push them forward or to continue to advance their life. They’ve decided that their life has hit the final plateau.

When water in a creek stops moving, it becomes stagnant. As we all know, it doesn’t take long for stagnant water to stink with rot. That’s what happens to our lives when we decide that living the small, unchanging, comfortable life is the best choice for us. When you are happy and content in your own little world you’ve already died even if your body hasn’t gone yet. No matter how many years you live on this earth, once you’ve reached the point where you’re comfortable and you aren’t willing to change things, you’ve already died.

A comfortable life is no life at all.

Sometimes God likes to shake things up

One thing I’ve learned about being comfortable is that just when you think “comfortable” is where you want to be and where you’ll stay, God does something that shakes all that up. He removes your comfort for your own good. He purposefully thwarts your plans for your continued growth.

A comfortable life is a life ripe for God to come in and say “Nope. We’re not doing this. Let’s keep moving. Here’s your next mission, should you choose to accept it.”

Usually that prompting comes in the form of some kind of pain, right? He’s got to get you uncomfortable if you are to move. Pain, if we’re honest, is usually the greatest motivator for us to change. When you’re comfortable there is no pain. It’s only when the pain becomes great enough for us to do something about it that we decide it’s time to move.

So maybe He ramps up the pain in order to get you to change, move, and grow. The thing about listening to God and doing what He says is that on the other side of that obedience, that moving, there is usually blessing. God blesses you when you obey.

Change is hard and often it feels like pain. But perhaps on the other side of that pain there is a blessing waiting for you. The trick is that it takes moving, going through the pain, in order to experience that blessing.

Lack of Dependence

Living a life that’s comfortable also means that you pretty much don’t have to depend on God at all. You can do everything you want or need to do under your own power.

I firmly believe that sometimes (most of the time probably) God wants you to depend on Him. He is your provider. He is your shield. He is your strength and life.

A life that’s comfortable is a life that doesn’t need a provider because you can provide for yourself. A life that’s comfortable is a life that doesn’t need a shield because you can protect yourself.

A comfortable life is a safe life and a safe life is really no life at all.

Where’s the adventure? Where’s the struggle? You can’t experience great wins without struggle.

There is the quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt that you’ve all probably read before but that fits aptly right here:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

A comfortable life is a life that led by “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

God knows that a comfortable life isn’t the life He meant for you. He didn’t mean for you to live a small story. He has plans for you and they don’t involve sitting in front of the TV every night.

No, you have a role in a much larger story. Perhaps you’ve lost sight of just how big the story God is telling is, and the purpose of your role in that story. Look around you. No seriously. Stop and take a look.

This whole thing is so much bigger than we think it is and your role in it is much more important than you could ever imagine.

“God knows the danger of ignoring our hearts, and so he reawakens desire. You see a photo in a magazine, and pause, and sigh. You see someone with a life that reminds you of the life you once thought you would live. You’re channel surfing one night and see someone doing the very thing you always dreamed you would do—the runner breaking the tape, the woman enjoying herself immensely as she teaches her cooking class. Sometimes all it takes is seeing someone enjoying themselves doing anything, and your heart says, I want that too.

God does this for our own good. He does it to reawaken desire, to stir our hearts up from the depths we sent them to. He does it so that we don’t continue to kill our hearts and so that we don’t fall prey to some substitute that looks like life but will become an addiction in short order.

He sometimes does it so that we will seek the life we were meant to seek. Isn’t this just what happens to the prodigal? He wakes one day to say, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (Luke 15:17). “Look at their lives,” he says. And he is stirred to head for home. To seek life.”

John Eldredge, Walking with God

Never give up. Never stop exploring. Never stop moving forward. There is too much in this life that you will miss when you settle for comfortable and safe. Do something … anything … and get uncomfortable.

Some questions I’ve started asking myself and that I would challenge you with this week:

  • Where are you living in a small story?
  • Where are you comfortable?
  • What needs to change to shake that up?