June 21, 2021 | Stories by Linda Opp
My favorite funny television moment occurs in an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers and a young boy are sitting on the couch, having a neighborly chat, when Mr. Rogers decides to take off his sweater. Somehow in the sweater-removing process, the kind and gentle Mr. Rogers ends up bonking the boy in the head with his elbow. The look on the boy’s face is priceless – surprise mixed with outrage. This is definitely not in the script.
But the show must go on, and Mr. Rogers doesn’t miss a beat. He goes back on script immediately (although I would have loved to have listened in on the after-show conversation between Mr. Rogers and the clobbered kid). I don’t know exactly what came next because I was laughing too hard.
On or off the stage, we all have a script, a set of expectations for how things are supposed to go. We have carefully thought-out plans for our days and weeks, our families, our careers, our retirements. Actually, scripts are helpful, because we all need a sense of direction.
But life has a way of going off-script. Sometimes it’s a minor Mr. Rogers moment. A flight is delayed, or the guests arrive an hour late for dinner, but you get right back on script. But many off-script events, like a protracted illness, an accident, a broken relationship, or a job loss, are life-changing and take you off script permanently. To complicate matters further, people around us have their own scripts, which may rip our script into tiny pieces.
I recently read about thirty-two movie moments that weren’t in the script. The actors, caught up in their own emotions and instincts, improvised. Instead of yelling, “No! It's not in the script!” the directors went with it to see what would happen. In every case, the director liked the result better than what was on the page.
When we’re living off script, we find out who we’re trusting and what we’re made of. If we say we trust in the God of the universe to direct our paths and our circumstances, are we willing to hand him the script and let him edit as we go? God's script is just possibly better than ours, not because he guarantees our comfort at all times, but because his goal for us is maturity. In hindsight, I can see that many of my off-script moments could have been handled with more trust than they actually were.
God is not surprised by our off-script moments, no matter how shocked or sad we are when the script is ripped out of our hands, along with our perfectly reasonable expectations. Our rigid plans, grasped too tightly, are killers. They kill flexibility, wonder, and appreciation for what is actually happening instead of what we want to happen. Expectations that we won’t surrender lead to bitterness, entitlement, and deep anger. We miss the grace and glory God wants to show us while he is editing our scripts.
Thankfully, God never goes off his own script. In theological terms, he is sovereign, which means his ultimate goal of expanding his kingdom and bringing himself glory has no chance of failure. I need to remember that when my script is being shredded, rewritten, or lost completely. I may have no idea where things are headed, or how long it's going to take to get there, but the God of the universe does.
How easily these words fly off my keyboard, but how deep is the struggle to surrender my expectations. My script hides the face of God. I need to let him wrench it away from me so I’ll be forced to trust him as the ultimate scriptwriter.
“The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad…” (Psalm 97:1).