The Pace of Suffering: a Netflix Original?

Dear adoptee,

I had just finished facilitating a Q&A session, adult adoptees on the panel and adoptive parents asking questions. Summertime, late afternoon. It’s a crowded area and people are standing up to stretch, gather their belongings and head out to gather their children. It’s hot. Been a long week.

An adoptive dad walked up to me, “You know, I got made fun of too. I had glasses. These kids gotta learn how to be resilient, everyone’s got something they’re going through, they can’t just complain all the time.” 

This is such a mixed bag.

Resilience. Sure, I’m a fan.

But comparing the experience of being ridiculed and marginalized as a function of adoption and race/ethnicity in the U.S. to… wearing glasses?

Kept my tongue behind clenched teeth a bit, pursed lips that form somewhat of a smile and look of concern, eyebrows as if I was quite empathetic toward this father’s message.

Because who am I to define suffering for this man?

Sing it loud brother, but I must acknowledge adoptees have wounds at places this father could not reach.

I’m confident that father loves his family. But where he falls short, is where the adoptee community begins its best work. Supporting, listening, validating each other’s pain and confusion where others struggle to reach. That’s why Therapy Redeemed exists.

“A wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal.” -John Eldredge (Wild at Heart)

Can you guess who wrote this verse? (read through post for the answer!)

Fight it, take the pain, ignite it
Tie a noose around your mind
Loose enough to breath fine and tie it
To a tree tell it, you belong to me, this ain’t a noose
This is a leash and I have news for you
You must obey me

If you’re suffering in any way, this post is for you.

I can’t take away your hurt, your pain, anxiety, the weight of loss and grief.

But as I struggle with my own worries, bitterness, fear of rejection, regrets about my past, uncertainties of what’s going to happen in family situations, confusion and frustrations with relationships, and disappointments in my efforts right now to reconnect with my birth family, I’ve been comforted. And I wonder if you could use some comfort, too.

What makes a good trailer for a movie or television show?

Let’s take a look at Avengers: Endgame

Avengers-Endgame-Logo-and-Iron-Man-and-Captain-America.jpg
HYPE Magazine

***EXPERIMENT*** (pick a trailer for an upcoming movie of your own preference and watch it, then let’s meet back for the rest of this post)

Here’s what I noticed in the trailer and I’m guessing you did too:

  1. We’re given clues about a problem or some villain. Characters ripped out of their normal life. Attack. A search for something. A chronic dilemma or pressure. Someone needs to change in a major way. Something too powerful to overcome. Separation. Tragedy. Loss. Pain. Suffering. Death.
  2. We’re shown who’s affected by the problem.
  3. We’re given a peek into their plan to solve it.
  4. We see an enemy or some kind of barrier prowling around, resisting.
  5. And finally we’re left wondering how they’re going to pull this off. How are they gonna get from point A to point B?

Marvel would you please take my money beginning April 2019 so I can see how they do it?

Of course this isn’t the only template for a good trailer or story, but it’s common. It’s riveting. It speaks to the core of our souls.

Because it’s actually happening in some way to you and me right now.

Which shows have had the most seasons overall in television history?

30 seasons: The Simpsons 

Homer-e1545255285943.jpg
allbaymusic.com

20 seasons: Law and Order Special Victims Unit 

SVU.jpg
The Hollywood Reporter

It’s fascinating how these stories represent the struggle inside of us (Simpsons; Homer) and the struggles outside of us (Law and Order SVU).

Internal and deep: one person would navigate the problem within himself. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would focus on the thoughts/beliefs, feelings/emotions, and behaviors of the individual.

External and wide: many people suffer from and navigate problems being done to them or coming at them from many others. Narrative Therapy would externalize problems, affirming the conflict remains outside of the individual, they’re caught up in problem-saturated stories.

Put’em together and you’ve got Psalm 119.

My main idea for today is suffering, internal and external, takes time to accomplish its purpose: growth.

That father with the glasses; growth.

His adopted child; growth.

The child’s birth/first mother; growth.

Everyone else involved; growth.

Me; growth.

We suffer daily. Because that’s what it takes to grow.

Are you suffering?

It’s slow. And it really sucks to be in it, but there’s generally something supernaturally beautiful and next-level amazing for us on the other side that could only happen through crushing pressure and time. I’m talking about hope.

Sure it can be expressed in a stand-alone movie when it spans years or generations.

But I want to highlight the years and generations represented in the multi-season content on Netflix. Let’s connect that role of pain and suffering to the very situations you and I are facing today.

Here’s what’s clear to me:

The Netflix universe affirms a biblical perspective on reality.

Namely, that binge-worthy stories take time, and they always involve suffering.

The story of Redemption is the original binge-worthy story.

And you’re part of it.

What are two or three struggles going on in your life right now?

Maybe it’s taking too long, you’ve been in this situation forever. Or, it’s ending too fast. There’s a time limit. An impossible task. Did this semester seem to destroy you? She turned you down. They never notice you. He cheated. They’re not calling back. They keep calling back. They’re offering the position to someone else. People can’t work together. Your friends are insensitive. So are other people’s friends. Leaders are corrupt. Your spouse is selfish. You’re selfish. The crying baby won’t sleep. Your body is disintegrating. You were abused. Verbal assault. Sexual assault. Perpetrators rejoice. Criminals are freed. The innocent are persecuted and perish. It’s all happening against your will, nothing is happening according to your will. Feels like you’re going through hell. It’s lonely.

This songwriter gets it.

Suffering.

Look at the flood of content on Netflix these days, real suffering does mess around.

And that pace of suffering resonates with so many of us because it’s happening to us that way, too.

Many thanks to those who responded to my recent insta-poll @therapyredeemed

IMG_6354.jpg

…and if so which shows? Here are some of the results:

Atypical

Schitt’s Creek & Designated Survivor

Parks and Recs

That 70s Show

Naruto

Chef & My Fridge

Law & Order SVU

This is Us

Glitch

Lucas Cage

Great British Baking Show

Stranger Things (my wife yay!!)

The Office

*Daredevil, Gotham, The Get Down, Parenthood (<—–these are mine*)

The stories that pull us in are all over the board (kinda like Scripture). That points to something so important; character development is an oven, not a microwave, no matter what’s going on in our lives, and despite mood and atmosphere. It applies across personality and genre. Everything from cooking the next greatest dish, supporting special needs, to recovery from addiction or self-harm.

Sometimes there’s humor. Sometimes horror. Sometimes both, and everything in between, it’s not binary or mutually exclusive. But we need more than one episode to get there.

Here’s what we can learn about suffering from the binge-culture of Netflix (main thought: multi-season formats resonate with us because humans are naturally drawn to the biblical theme of storytelling; there’s a long-term and eternal perspective with a grand purpose).

  1. Your life is on course for good growth, despite your perceptions and interpretations.
  2. Suffering is essential. Without it, you’ve got no story, or growth.
  3. Sometimes “middle-chapters” appear to make no sense until later chapters. Setting the stage, template, for upcoming action. Why?
  4. Because depth of character takes time to brew. And action without character is like putting the cart before the horse. We appreciate the action sequences of a story because we understand who’s in them. We binge for hours because we get to spend time with those characters, see how they’re made, their world, get to know them, their internal and external conflicts, feel with them, and even imagine ourselves as them. It’s New Testament paired with Old Testament, the glory of the later stands on the work of the former, and vice versa.
  5. Remember, we’re in a Saga, never a stand-alone story. What happens today will be woven into the entire plot. The Author doesn’t waste time. There is no “B roll.”
  6. PRIORITIES PART A) Focus on the right story threads and the right characters. Have you ever found yourself focusing too much on one aspect of a circumstance? Or maybe for too long you’ve neglected something or someone that should have been front and center? I have, and I regret it. And I continue to struggle, my soul and heart hijacked away from the stuff that counts. But because we’re in that Saga, we have daily opportunities to turn back, resume progression toward the people and purposes that truly matter.
  7. PRIORITIES PART B) There’s nothing you or anyone else can do to endanger the grand arc, because God is good. And patient. And able. Willing. With compassion and authority, and with us. You think you derailed God? Or they messed it up too much; that it’s beyond repair and restoration? Don’t give yourself so much credit. Or others.

So what can we do about it?

  1. Find someone you trust, schedule a coffee date or a warm meal, get together and talk about it. Go somewhere noisy or find a quite nook. Let them listen and listen to them.
  2. Write it down. Get a notepad, a journal, post-it notes, coloring pad, anything. Write it out, mark it up, tear it up, set it on fire, mail it out, use words and pictures to express what you want, don’t want, what was there, what shouldn’t have been there, what you hated about the situation, what you wish would have happened instead, there’s no wrong answer here. But write it out.
  3. Pray. Yell. Scream. Whisper. Sing. Talk. Groan. Cry. Breathe. Be still. Fast. Feast. Repeat.
  4. Come up with your plan. Invite a friend or loved one into your story. Even a professional, trauma-informed, someone who fits with your needs, clinical or medical, if it feels appropriate seek out an evaluation. Come up with a plan together. Jot down your coping skills, your support system, your tangible goals, the “Point B”, your resources, the schedule, the back-up plan, the permission to fail at the plan.
  5. Know your enemy. Certain places? People? Times? Smells? Tastes? Colors? Temperatures? Fabrics or textures? Sounds? Situations? Find that barrier and name it.
  6. You’re smart enough to know I’m just walking you through the template for a good trailer/story. Important thing is you get to decide who’s gonna be with you as you navigate from point A to point B, however long it takes.

Look at Joseph in the season(book) of Genesis. Brothers buried him in a hole and left him for dead. Many years later he says to their face, “Hey it’s in the past, what was meant for evil, God meant for good, so that many would be saved.”

That’s a guy who’s familiar with the pace of suffering. Make no mistake. Pain and suffering is real and happening, today, to many people. At various times in your life people have committed egregious evil against you. But the good news is that it’s not a noose, it’s a leash, it obeys Someone.

This Joseph (Tyler) gets it too, check out this verse (did you guess it from earlier??):

“Fight it, take the pain, ignite it
Tie a noose around your mind
Loose enough to breath fine

and tie it to a tree, tell it you belong to me,

this ain’t a noose
This is a leash and I have news for you
You must obey me”

You and I can’t step into our favorite Netflix series and help the characters out.

But who could step into our living stories, to help us out?

Remember, you get to decide who to invite into your story.

Emmanuel; God with us. That’s what the Gospel message is about.

Jesus stepped into our completely messed up world, tied a noose around a certain tree and said, “you obey me.”

Then rises from the dead and literally sits at the right hand of God. Ready for the next step. That’s someone I need in my plan.

Eventually I’m realizing I’m privileged to be a part of His.

He possesses all authority, power and pleasure to tie a noose around our specific local suffering in this very moment, to say “this obeys me.”

Do you wear glasses? Yep, this is for you.

Do you feel completely overwhelmed, left out, unheard, cut off, invisible, to the point of death, unmotivated and empty, can’t imagine any possible way forward? “This obeys me.”

Why? Because of who he is, and his love and commitment to us, despite our perceptions, our own understandings or interpretations; it truly is for good.

When you respond to anything in your life with that kind of faith and meaning, you’re gonna start crushing mountains.

If you’re suffering, it’s gonna be a while. And it’s gonna be a powerful story sooner or later, so that many others can have hope. So please remember and take action on this truth:

The Netflix universe affirms a biblical perspective on reality.

Namely, that binge-worthy stories take time, and they always involve suffering.

The story of Redemption is the original binge-worthy story.

And you’re part of it.

Episodes you might appreciate:

Hebrews 12:2

Romans 5:3-5

Deuteronomy 31:6

James 1:12

Psalms 34:18

James 1:2-4

featured pc: Inverse

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