A month ago, I started noticing a bunch of posts from friends about a tv show, This is Us. I was curious, so I opened a new tab and watched the available episodes of the show. But, I seem to have had the opposite reaction that many people I know have had to this show.
I don't like it.
This is one of those times when I have felt puzzled and so I began asking the question, "Why don't I like it?"
Yesterday, after leaving Bible study, I was able to articulate part of why. We're going through the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller and our discussion was about chapter 23. It focused on understanding that our suffering is part of God's story that He is weaving. Mr. Miller gave some advice on how to cope with suffering and this is my paraphrased of his advice.
2. Look for God's story and what he's doing.
3. Stay in the story. Hang in there.
One of my friend's mentioned her childhood and the difference between her childhood and her own children's childhood. I often think about this. But, yesterday, I thought about it in a new way.
I thought of my mom's life while I was a child. I loved my mom then and love her now. She protected me the best she could and the one time she didn't, she quickly learned the consequences of that and never did that again. My mom didn't have a college education or even a community college education, but supported me in school and college. I was a very strong willed child, but the freedom she gave me made want to turn to her and tell her everything. My mom's life as a wife stayed the same during her marriage and didn't improve until she got a divorce from my dad.
My childhood was tense and without laughter. It was lonely and mostly unhappy. I don't have that many happy memories of being a kid. I grew up in a big house, but a big house doesn't mean someone's happy. Never judge a book by its cover. I was introverted as a measure of self protection.
But, my children's childhood is very different than mine and for this I am immensely grateful. We laugh every day. They have friends, even if only a few, they do have good friends. And they have each other--and they enjoy playing with each other (which my brother and I did not)! And my life as a mom is different than my mom's. My marriage has God at the center of it, holding my husband and I together. In the years we have been married, we have grown. Life may not be the exact way I want it to be and I may not have all that I want (intangible things), but my life with my husband is marked by change and growth. God has grown me. He has grown my husband. And he has grown us together.
There are actually several reasons why This is Us bothers me. The first is that it's a show about self-centered characters. Even though the show is telling the story simultaneously of the adults' childhood and their adulthood (going back and forth between the two), each of the characters is very self centered on their own issues. The main character of the three adult children, Randall, spends the majority of all the scenes I've seen blaming his mother and being angry at her. One predominant theme of the show is blame.
I have a teenage daughter and one who is in her tween years. Sometimes I worry that as adults they will look back on their childhoods and wish that I parented differently. I worry sometimes that they will blame me if they have problems as adults. This show feeds into that fear and it's not good for me.
It's easy to start focusing on what we don't have, but rather we should be focusing on what God has given us and what He's doing in our lives. This is what God reminded me to look at. He reminded me this week that those things I want most--He is giving me--but they don't look at all like I wanted them to. So, if I'm not looking for how God is working, I'm going to miss it.
I'm not a perfect parent. I know I'm going to make mistakes. I know I have already made mistakes. But, I'm grateful for the life God is giving me, my husband, and our children--even though it's not perfect. It is marked by suffering of a different kind than I experienced as a child. Our family has walked through some tough stuff--like everyone I know. But, there is a story there--one that God is weaving even now.