Life does not offer commercial breaks. Cliffhanger moments in the spring cannot wait until the new television season in the fall to be resolved. Life does not fade to black with ominous minor chords playing as a background exclamation point.
Given our uninterrupted existences, life can be overwhelming. In English class, we learned that a story’s plot includes an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, or denouement for the real show-offs. Depending upon whether you believe that life imitates art or art imitates life, life is like a plot or a plot mirrors life. Either way, we’re in for a ride.
I find the rollercoaster much easier to stomach by breaking life into my own episodes. Since life does not offer automatic pauses, I have to create own. My favorite pauses include the peace I feel while swimming, taking a walk in the woods or the live worship music of the praise band at church. It is in these moments where reflection can occur; the climaxes can be examined and the resolutions appreciated. Hopefully, sense can be made of the seemingly senseless.
Life has a way of illuminating our imperfections. We might want to keep them in the dark. But a good story casts a spotlight on a character’s flaws and offers an opportunity for development and growth. Plots twists serve as a catalyst for change. Some memorable twists in my life came from interruptions courtesy of Jesus and a pair of dirty underwear.
One morning many years ago, I found my wife, Alicia, in the laundry room gently dabbing a pair of the boys’ underwear with a dryer sheet because, with both of us working full time, we struggled to keep up with the laundry. Life was chaotic. Juggling school, daycare, two fulltime jobs and a newly purchased house hinted at the so-called American dream. Yet, an underscore in life left us unsatisfied and longing for more. We wanted our kids to leave the house with clean shorts, not just smelling Snuggle clean.
The uncomfortable plot elements made me examine my life. I found myself in church wrestling with myself. It was in church, a place often wrongly assumed as a place where the perfect roam, that I found out it was ok to be imperfect. That there is a God and He walked on Earth specifically for imperfect people. And that by giving things over to Him, you could actually become clean; not just smell clean. While my imperfections would continue, He would be a constant cleanser.
Like a character in a story, I was brought through a catharsis. But unlike a character, this process was not complete and wrapped up in bows within a two-hour period. This process continues. That continuation is the journey of life.
My family’s most recent episodic adventure included launching our oldest son, Tyler, into what can be considered his own spin-off as he started college at Rochester Institute of Technology this fall.
One day, the closing credits will metaphorically roll over the final scene of my life. In the end, I hope to not just be a character. Rather, I want to be person who built a fine character on the lessons he learned.