Purpose and Plotlines
My life has a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot. – Ashleigh Brilliant
Every fall, my pop-culture Bible Entertainment Weekly devotes an issue to the new TV season. As I read the 2014 edition a few months ago, packed with interviews with writers and showrunners, I was struck in a new way by their authority over their stories. As is tradition, many of them had thrown crazy things at their characters at the end of last season or divided their protagonist couples, but they already had plans in place to resolve those conflicts. Sometimes in the first couple of episodes. Because nothing can prevent storytellers (at least the good ones) from remaining faithful to their arc. Neither fire, nor flood, nor misunderstanding, nor stunt-cast love interest can prevent everything from working out as it should (usually happily) – or at least making sense – in the end.
I thought about how safe I would feel knowing my fate is locked in, there’s nothing I can do to mess up my own eventual happiness, and the setbacks I face are temporary. That I’m in the hands of people who know what they’re doing and will not be thwarted. For a long moment, I seriously envied fictional characters. And then I went, Oh.
I am in the hands of the Ultimate Storyteller, and I trust Him less than I trust Hollywood writers.
I have never had a shred of doubt that God can do anything He wants. He is sovereign and limitless. (If He wanted to, He could pull a Dawn from Buffy and make a soul mate for me right now out of dust and plant memories in all of our heads that he had always been there. But, you know, that’s not really how He rolls.) My skepticism has never been whether God can. It’s whether He will. And my belief that He will gets weaker all the time, because for His own reasons, He so often chooses not to. I’ve seen parents and spouses lost way too soon and friends struggling through miscarriage, infertility, unemployment, underemployment, financial struggles, loneliness, difficult marriages, and unwanted singleness that goes on and on. I’ve seen people cry out to God for years while nothing really changed. In a lot of these stories, deliverance and/or resolution eventually came. But when many “seasons” have passed, you start to wonder if you have your own story arc at all… or if you’re just a background player walking in sad circles, a plotline dropped in favor of the more interesting things happening to other people.
Not long after this EW revelation, I was discussing similar things over dinner with a new friend. When she brought up Jeremiah 29:11 – that favorite ruler-wrist-slap of Christians everywhere – I braced myself. But she wanted to talk about the context. In Jeremiah 29, God is talking to the Jews exiled to Babylon, who are crying out for deliverance to go back to Israel. He tells them He will eventually bring that to pass – but not for seventy years. So they need to settle in and get comfortable with Plan B, because their own personal dreams of going home are never going to come true. Then He says, For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. I wish I could talk to the Israelites about how they found comfort in that, then and at the end of their lives. (At least they had confidence that things would be better for their descendants.)
The problem, I guess, is that we all want to be on The Mindy Project, but some of us are on Game of Thrones. And most of us are somewhere in the middle, somewhere between comedy and tragedy, and our plots could go either way. We don’t know what kind of show we’re living in. We don’t know if we’ll get personal triumphs or if we’re more of a device to move the big-picture story forward. I know that the overall story of the world ends happily. But I’d love a little reassurance that my smaller story is going somewhere good, or even anywhere at all… at some point before the end of time.
About Brenda W.Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
Posted in faith, reflections, the writing life, tv