I have to tell you this story. It is changing my life.
It's Donald Miller's story, and I give him all credit for its genius, wisdom, and perfection.
A friend of Donald's was taking a six-month sabbatical from her daily life, packing up and heading to Spain. Just before she left the country, she asked him to meet her over a cup of coffee and please impart some wisdom that she may take with her to Europe.
"I'm doing it - I'm going to Spain. I'm writing a better story for myself. So, what words would you send with me? What advice do you have for me?"
He delighted in her plans and listened to what she planned to do on her tour. He may have told her some places to see and some sights to capture, but he didn't give her a list of things not to do.
(Although anyone talking to a young girl heading to Spain would probably think of a thing or two to advise against.)
Instead, he applauded her courage and bid her an excellent season of exploring.
"You're going to have such a great time, and I love this for you. Let me ask you this, " he said, gently changing the subject. "Do you think you'll ever get married?"
"Oh, yes, for sure."
"Yeah? Tell me about him."
Her eyes lit up as she talked about the anonymous man - Don says she mentioned the words 'good looking' several times as she described him.
"Wow. He sounds great. And do you think you two will have a family together?"
"Oh, yes. Definitely. I want to be a mom."
"So, see if you can picture this scene with me. Picture yourself in the hospital room, your husband is beside you, and you're holding this brand new baby who looks a little like you and a little like your husband. You've just become a family. Can you picture that scene?"
She was dreamy. "Yes. I can."
"Okay. Now. Don't do anything in Spain that could jeopardize the beauty of that scene."
Don't do anything to jeopardize the beauty of that scene.
Even now, as I type those words, it brings me to my knees all over again. He didn't tell her what not to do: don't spend the whole time crazy drunk; don't sleep your way through the country; don't have sex with a dozen romantic, seductive Spaniards.
Just keep that picture in mind, and don't do anything to jeopardize the beauty of that scene.
He used this story to show how our brains are wired to learn best from a story. I probably won't easily recall a bulleted list or a series of alliterated statements, but a story will burn itself into my brain in no time at all.
I think I might have actually cussed under my breath when he finished this story. It seriously slayed me with its powerful imagery and effectiveness. When that happens, I lose control of my vocabulary. Things just come out.
Donald's story has changed my life. It has become my filter for making decisions, great and small. I'm in that place, once again, of protecting the beauty of what is to come.
I don't know what my family will look like in the years to come, to whom my heart will belong, or what climactic scenes lie ahead in the next season.
But, may I do nothing to jeopardize the beauty of that scene.