“But are there bumps?!” My son Tai asks this question before we begin any story or movie. He loves bumps. You know: the tension and suspense. The “Oh no!” moments. The hold-your-breath-and-wonder-what-in-the-world-will-happen-next moments. At 6 he already knows that bumps are what compel us to continue reading or watching. No bumps...no story. And this kid lives for a good story.
I do too. I love story, and I’m always searching for it. But I don’t just find it in books and movies. My favorite place to find it is in real lives. In people. We all carry stories. We’re all what I call “storied.”
The problem is that we really only enjoy bumps in stories that have conclusions. We don’t like bumps in unfinished stories. Because not knowing how things turn out can be unbearable. Truly. Unbearable.
It’s why Tai currently hates chapter books. We never read chapter books from start to finish in one sitting, and it’s the not knowing that about kills him. He hasn’t yet discovered that it’s these prolonged bumps and complex plots that gives these stories particular depth and ability to touch us for life. He hasn’t, but he will. He’s destined to become like his mother: a lifelong pursuer of story and its mysterious power.
I believe when we are awakened to our lives as stories, we gain the ability to see the value and dare I say importance of life’s bumps. Without them we’re just...floating along...without any need to hold our breath or close our eyes or say a prayer. And we have no opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing the dawn of a new day.
Sometimes the conclusions to our real life stories are not what we would hope for. We can’t count on the cut and dry endings that we read in fairytales like The Frog Prince or The Six Swans. We can’t guarantee justice will prevail and good will triumph, at least not here, not now. We worry our stories will end more like one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
My family and I are in the middle of some bumps right now. I think we experience bumps to one degree or another every day; but these particular bumps scare me. They’re messy and have too many twists and turns. To be honest, there are nights that the suspense keeps me awake. It about kills me.
When Shawn and I got married nine years ago, we had “Beyond Imagination” engraved on the interiors of our rings. It comes from Ephesians 3:20, 21, which basically reminds us that God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. Well. If you could peek into our two minds, you’d see that Shawn and I have awesome imaginations. We are hardcore dreamers. Yet God can do things beyond our wildest thoughts. Way beyond.
And this is why I will survive these bumps. Sure, some things end in tragedy, and these bumps we’re experiencing very well could too. It could get worse before it gets better. I do not believe that just because I “have faith” that I am immune to things taking a turn for the worse! But I do believe that if they do, it is not for naught. The story never ends there. God’s paradigm is concurrent with that of the fairytale: out of great tragedy comes even greater beauty and life. Beauty and life that exceed our wildest thoughts.
We’ve all experienced the good that can come from heartache: A better understanding of God and self; a deeper appreciation for love; a more keen awareness of beauty; a greater capacity for compassion; a deeper joy when good things do happen.
None of us would wish tragedy or heartache or “bumps” on anyone, but the more we personally experience these, the more we know there is life on the other side. And though sometimes that life looks very different from the life we imagined, it is good. Dare I say it’s beautiful too.
So yes, Tai, there will be bumps. There will always be bumps. We will close our eyes and hold our breath and say a prayer; but in the end there will be life on the other side. And that life will be good too. And someday we’ll see that the bumps changed us and that those changes are beautiful. And someday, someday there will be a conclusion, and there won’t be bumps. And then we will finally live happily ever after.