Theoretical Life

Yesterday, I was in Oklahoma City. My friend Kent and I went to Hafer Park and walked around. As we were walking, we talked about different stories each of us had at the park. Conversations we had with other people, when God connected us to certain people at times, and times when someone really changed perspective. Kent says something that I couldn’t agree with more.

“Life’s greatest moments are not lived in coffeeshops. And you don’t remember the coffeeshop times.”

Seeing as this is a blog, I think I may have offended eighty to ninety percent of the readers with the line I just wrote. But give me a second. I”ll explain. Coffeeshops are safe havens in culture today. It is a laid back atmosphere where you can get to know someone, talk through some things that you’re going through, write, create, discover, and think. It is a place for deep conversations or for friends to hang out. But the one thing that I have done very little at a coffeeshop is do.

Coffeeshops provide a wonderful atmosphere for theoretical lives. There are so many buzzwords in Christian culture today. I have said many of them at different times, and quite often in describing something at a coffeeshop. Phrases like,

“Sharing life together.”

“Taking the journey together.”

“Pouring into each other.”

These are all very elegant phrases. I’m not sure who came up with them, but someone at some point did.  Coffeeshops are breeding grounds for “deep, philosophical, theological, anthropological conversations” but the question is, how many moments of all the times you’ve spent in coffeeshops do you remember? For me, I don’t remember a whole lot of them. I remember meeting with people, and a genuine excitement as we talked ideas, culture, and trying to make sense of it all. One day, I woke up to the realization that I was living a theoretical life. I knew the Christian quotes. The cliche stuff. The new sayings that people put out that people retweet, and almost wait for. I could talk in a lot of different fields of study. So some people would say I was deep or smart. But my life was lived mainly in one sense.


Don Miller says that a character is what they do. In a movie for instance, a character has to do something. If Frodo doesn’t leave The Shire, the story is lame. If Luke doesn’t leave Tatooine, the story is lame. If William Wallace doesn’t revolt against the British, the story is lame. In fact, the story is never there if the characters don’t do something. If Ryan Gosling doesn’t make a move at the State Fair for Rachel McAdams in the Notebook, then nobody would have been crying at the end. A character has to do something.

Would you watch a movie where a character just went and talked about ideas all day? Probably not. Would you watch a movie where a character just did the same thing every day, going through the motions, and slaving away at something they don’t really like. Probably not. Would you watch a movie where a character faces conflict, and determines to do something different? Those are the movies we watch. And this isn’t just in movies. This is the books we read, and usually the most exciting people to be around. People who do something.

A character is what they do. And you remember what you do. The time I got lost with my family on a hike in the mountains. The time Drew and I hiked 20 miles in one day in the Appalachians, and then monsoon rains hit. The time Kyler and I did Garnett’s Youth Retreat back in college. The time we went down and fed the homeless.

You get the idea. The only way to really live a great story is to do something. If you talk about, if you cram your life with busyness, if you think about what you would do, you aren’t doing it. Because you won’t remember those stories. A character is what they do. In today’s culture, the theme is to watch other people live. To be entertained. Instead of thinking about what it would be like to do what the entertainment does, leave the theoretical life and go do it.



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