I’ve been having trouble keeping my Lenten promise to spend more time in prayer. This is such a busy time of year in an admissions office. I did, however, find an hour to watch the end of one of my favorite TV shows last night. Like any devout fan, I am not wholly satisfied with the conclusion of “How I Met Your Mother.” Part of me is glad to have some closure, but it was not at all what I expected (although, I knew something was coming…). The other part of me wants to change it all to fit what I think would make the best ending.
Now, let’s be honest, I am in the dangerous position of being a fan lamenting the end of a show, and who will now try to seek closure by theologizing the merits of the show in slightly underwhelming prose. After all, there is so much material to work with! I could talk about discernment of vocation, the brokenness of life, the negative dimension of the hook-up culture, or the exponential increase of sappiness in the last few episodes. I could talk about the search for love, meaning, or fulfillment as Christian values. But in the end, it was just a TV show that chronicled the sometimes outrageous lives of middle class (well… upper middle class…) people in New York City. And it was really funny!!
The other event I watched last night was a colloquium I attended at Boston College featuring lay and ordained ministers in poor rural communities across the country. These ministers, and the members of the communities that accompanied them, talked about the struggle to build a community of faith in the midst of poverty, disease, and violence. These communities were also searching for meaning, for love, and for fulfillment, but they did this in the face of serious obstacles and more than minor setbacks.
I think that too often I see the world through the eyes of “How I Met Your Mother.” What I mean is, I see the world and my life as something incomplete and broken, but also as something that I can eventually fix – even if it takes nine seasons. I can succeed at work and ministry. I can mend all my broken relationships. I can fix all the things that make me, my community, and the world imperfect. At times we all feel this way, and our society encourages this sentiment. We are told that everyone can pull themselves up and fix what is wrong. However, these ministers and their stories show in stark detail that this is not true. We cannot fix the problems in the world and in our lives by ourselves.
I write this not to create a sense of hopelessness, but because the reality of our situation calls for action. It calls us to work in the world where there is the most need, and it calls us to grow deeper in relationship with the one who will eventually bring a lasting fulfillment in his Kingdom. God is the one that gives us the courage and strength to face those challenges one day at a time. He is also the one who gives us a community so we do not face these challenges alone.
I really enjoyed Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney, and I really do relate to a lot of their struggles. But the reality is that in this world there are no perfect endings: only perfect grace filled moments along the journey that give us the hope and strength to carry on Christ’s mission. I think it is time for me to stop slacking with my Lenten prayers because I need God’s help, and there is a lot of work to be done.