Have you ever wondered why we all gravitate towards stories? Think about it for a second. When you’re hanging out with friends, when you’re getting together with family, when you’re telling jokes, you tend to tell and hear a lot of stories.
Story is one of the most ancient forms of communication. Before there was the written word, there were spoken tales passed down from generation to generation. Before books, there were drawings painted on cave walls.
We talk a lot about story around here. We feature them. We write about them. We film them. We live them.
But why? What is it about stories that just, well, works? I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.
Enter John Eldredge and a new film called, “A Story Worth Living.”
“Story is the way we figure things out. It’s how we all make sense of things. Story is how we all make sense of our lives,” Eldredge says in the film.
You may recognize the name. Eldredge is the bestselling author of the insanely popular book, “Wild at Heart,” which examines true masculinity and a man’s yearning for adventure. “A Story Worth Living,” his latest project, takes those ideas, injects them with steroids, combines it with danger and breathtaking cinematography, and mixes in a unique element: a story about story, told against the backdrop of a thrilling motorcycle trip.
The film, which will be available in theaters nationwide as part of a one-night Fathom event on Thursday,* follows Eldredge and his three boys — Sam, Blaine, and Luke — as well as friends Dan Allender and Jon Dale as they trek through the backcountry of Colorado for a week on dual-sport motorcycles. When they stop, the conversations turn from riding to real life.
The result is something epic and inspiring yet contemplative and thought-provoking. It’s like combining a bridge jump with the deepest, longest campfire chat you’ve ever experienced.
Take, for example, a statement that made me pause the film and think.
“The real question isn’t why is there so much suffering in the world. The real question is why is there so much beauty,” Eldredge says at one point.
Read that again.
That’s not something we hear a lot. We hate pain. We loathe suffering. And knowing it exists wrecks us inside. And it leads to doubt. Doubt about good, and especially about anyone who claims there is someone who is the ultimate author of all that is good.
But Eldredge has a different take.
“If the problem of pain is the greatest threat to belief, the problem of beauty is the greatest threat to unbelief,” Eldredge told I Am Second in a video interview from Colorado Springs, Colorado, with Sam, Blaine, and Jon Dale by his side.
“How can you hang on to your skepticism in the face of such overwhelming beauty? That’s actually the burden. The burden is on you to explain that away.”
That’s why “A Story Worth Living” isn’t just a motorcycle movie.
“The story is not about motorcycles,” Eldredge said. It’s about finding your story by going on an adventure, whatever that looks like.
“What is the adventure for you?” he asked. “What’s the dream? What’s the passion? What’s going to take you outside your normal life? It’s as simple as that. Adventure is what takes you outside your normal life.”
“Normal” really has no place in the film. The group experiences everything from broken ribs to a standoff with a bull. But here’s where it’s different: It’s not an adventure just to take an adventure. It’s an adventure to find something deeper.
“People making adventure their profession has confused what adventure really is,” Blaine told I Am Second, a reference to adrenaline-junky videos that have become the standard by which everything is measured. “[Those videos] become the entirety of the story, instead of just events in the context of a larger story.”
In other words, adventure-seeking has become the end, instead of a means to an end.
And don’t think that just taking a vacation constitutes an adventure.
“Vacations shouldn’t scare the bejeesus out of you,” Eldredge explained. “Vacations are supposed to be palm trees. Adventures are things that ask a lot of you. And you come through exhausted and better for it.”
“Adventures get better when things go wrong,” Dale added. “On vacation, if things go wrong, it ruins your vacation.”
There’s something all of our stories at I Am Second have in common. They point to something deeper. Something better. There’s brokenness, but there’s restoration. And no matter how many times I’ve watched some of them, they still speak to me.
There’s a moment in “A Story Worth Living” that explains why.
“I think that the reason we love these [stories like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars”] so much is that they are all .. speaking to one thing,” Eldredge says while sitting in the middle of sand dune. “At the end of all of them, [there’s] some incredible restoration.”
“That’s the gospel, that’s the story that God is telling,” he adds “We are in story. And there’s only one story. And the world just keeps retelling the same story in myth, and fairy tale, and poem, and legend. … But what we’re actually describing here is, there is a larger story. And we have a part in it.”
And that’s the beauty of the film. It’s genuine. It’s real. It isn’t a bait-and-switch. Yes, it’s an epic motorcycle film with incredible footage that takes you on a wild ride. But just as much, it’s a film about finding something deeper and greater than yourself.
“We weren’t trying to get people in, and get to 45 minutes, and say, ‘Surprise!’” Sam told I Am Second. “What we’re doing in the film is trying to tell a good story. We know that people connect with narrative.”
That idea of narrative and story is crucial to understanding ourselves and others. And something really neat happens when we start telling our own story — we become more known. And to be fully known is something we’re all striving for.
I think, in the end, that’s why we love stories and gravitate toward them. We want to know others and to be known by them.
As Eldredge says, it’s “how we all make sense of our lives.”
And that in itself makes a lot of sense.
Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second
*UPDATE: The Fathom event has since taken place. Stay tuned to astoryfilm.com for information on when the film will be released on DVD.