Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Endings

Several years ago, Big Dave and I were in the midst of some disagreement, and he said that one of my biggest problems is that I think life is like a sit-com...where world problems are solved in thirty minute blocks...including commercials. And while I realize that the world has changed and reality television has trumped the old sit-coms I grew up watching...I fear that he might be right.

How many times do we want things to work out just the way that we think they should? How much energy do we expend trying to correct deficiencies, fix injustices, and mull over past decisions? Wouldn't it be nice if we could just wrap it up in 30 minutes or have things fall into place just as we believe that they should?

Well, I'll admit it. I'm a huge sucker for a happy ending. I love success stories, people who overcome adversity and tales of life's sweetness. I love reading items in engagement announcements like "he gave her a Valentine in the 5th grade" or "she came home with his sister for Thanksgiving during college" and knowing that everything worked out the way that it was supposed to.

I think that some of the biggest disappointments in life come because we set our heart on something or someone...and then when it falls apart we close the door and padlock it from the pain, confusion, and anger. Sometimes we lock the door, but will peek out a crack in our resolve until we think that the coast is clear and we can move forward. Other times, we just sit there until someone lightly raps at the door to let us know that they have missed us. But for most of us, we shut some doors, throw away the key, leave the house abandoned, and try to convince our heart that everyone has times like these.

Happy endings are what keep the country music industry in business, keep people going to movies despite rising ticket prices and questionable morality and keep us up late at night reading. We love songs, movies and authors that transport us to places where all of the details are neatly wrapped up when the final page is turned, credit is rolled, or notes fade away.

The problem with happy endings is that each of us has a lot of happy moments allotted to us but only one scene of the play of our lives is played at a time. We wonder...when the final curtain comes down...if the story of our lives is a comedy, a tragedy, or something grand and epic. We worry that we could have done more, been more or meant more. But the truth is...we don't really know what the reviews will be...and we would probably be surprised if we did.

Listening to a couple of college girls last week was enlightening. They were talking about young men in their lives and trying to project out what these relationships might eventually mean. Will they be dates that they took to a dance and young men that they knew their sophomore year...forever a footnote in their lives? Will they be forgotten...the memories shelved like a photograph in an album that is rarely opened? Or will they be something more somewhere down the road...someone significant? They don't know...and right now...wondering how the pen of life will write their stories is entertainment enough.

This weekend, I will get to witness a happy ending. A friend's son is getting married on Saturday to a wonderful girl. Their lives intersected several times and over many years...but it all came together less than two years ago. Unanticipated all of those years ago...but perfect in this place and time.

So, as I wait for my story to be written...I will continue to hope that some days will be better than I imagine, others will be as wonderful as I imagine, and that I will be capable of bearing the disappointments. The joy of life is in the surprises that exceed our expectations...but also in the realization that in our deepest disappointments because God is there with us and in control...we can still experience joy. It may not be the happy ending we imagine...or wrap up in 30 minutes...but it is our story. And I know that - because of my faith - it will have a happy ending.

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