Writing the Right Story

It may come with age and circulation. I don’t circulate much anymore. Carole and I have thermostats wired to different universes. She wants the room cool enough to hang meat; I’m looking for one more blanket.

My current devotional reading has focused on David.  A recent portion caught my attention:

“In his old age…no matter how many blankets were heaped upon him, he was always cold. ‘The cure for this,’ his aides told him, ‘is to find a young virgin to be your concubine and nurse. She will lie in your arms and keep you warm. So they searched the country from one end to the other to find the most beautiful girl in all the land. Abishag…was selected. (…but he had no sexual relations with her”) 1 Kings 1:1-4).

How does Abishag put that on her resume? “Worked for a time as a human hot water bottle.” That job kept her from marriage and limited her vocational prospects. She became an innocent center piece of an attempted coup. We know nothing about the most beautiful girl in the land other than that, except this interesting tidbit:

“Bathsheba went into the king’s bedroom. He was an old, old man, now, and Abishag was caring for him” (vs 15).

I wonder if that was difficult. Bathsheba came into the room to tell David about the coup and she knew if she didn’t talk him into doing something—as frail as he was—she and Solomon would be executed. So she may not have even noticed Abishag. Later, after national politics and family dynamics settled down, I wonder if Bathsheba saw Abishag and thought to herself, “I used to be who she is today—at least, the most beautiful girl in David’s eyes.”

Don Miller captured part of the world with his book, “Blue Like Jazz,” in which he talked about his life. Later, two filmmakers approached him to make a movie based on that book—his memoir. The filmmakers decided they had to change the character in the book. They would have to make up a different “Don” for the movie than the Don Miller in the book.

Miller asked the obvious question. “What is wrong with the ‘Don’ in the book?”

“What Steve is trying to say…is that your real life is boring.”



Reality that worked as a best seller in a book, wouldn’t work on a movie screen. So the author got to write a screenplay.

“It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it’s obvious now that in creating the fictional Don, I was creating the person I wanted to be, the person worth telling stories about. It never occurred to me that I could re-create my own story, my real life story, but in an evolution I had moved toward a better me. I was creating someone I could live through, the person I’d be if I redrew the world, a character that was me but flesh and soul other. And flesh and soul better too.” (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years—What I Learned while editing my life, ©2009 by Donald Miller, Thomas Nelson Poublishers)

Miller defines “story” as “A character who wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it.”

As in The Story of My Life? Doesn’t that mean we must know what we want our life to be? Accomplish? Go?

That reminds me of a Charlie Brown quote, which I paraphrase: They were telling the story of my life and kept telling me I wasn’t right for the part. I wonder if life turned out for Abishag or Bathsheba as they had planned. I wonder if they liked the way it turned out.

One of the most powerful things I’ve heard recently is about a teen who was messing up her life not deterred by any rules or restrictions. Her dad concludes that she was playing a role in a story that was the best one available to her. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family and she had no better option than the story she had chosen.

“She’s not a bad girl. She was just choosing the best story available to her.” We need a story. We need a role to play. We need to risk—to venture—to go after something we want and overcome the barriers.

So the dad responded to a vision caster who said someone needed to build a $25,000 orphanage in Mexico and he signed his family up. “We’ll build it.”

One of the serious lessons of the business books I’ve read is, “If you want to change your company, change the stories you tell.”

Miller says, “Once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a choice.”

 © D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House


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