This morning, I saw a particularly timely cartoon come across my Facebook feed.
When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, “PLOT TWIST,” and move on!
My life has been full of plot twists. Interestingly, I’ve always, in the moment, reflected on the fact that bad news, or a major life change, never seems to come in the form I think it will. Every time I’ve been given news that changed my life’s direction, it’s been on a sunny day. In the movies, bad news has weather to fit it. It’s generally raining or gray. When my mother reached across the table to take my hand and tell me my brother had been diagnosed with cancer the first time, I distinctly remember the sunshine streaming through the windows. It was like a note out of key. Here she was, talking about radiation therapy and my brother’s odds and it was a bright sunny Saturday morning. Similarly, the morning my father called me to tell me my brother had passed from his second battle with cancer, it was a bright morning. Plot twists in real life aren’t nearly as well scripted as they are in the movies.
Each time I’ve had a major plot twist as well, I’ve never had music come in to warn me or some foreshadowing to let me know how this story would play out. When I was younger, I didn’t really have a faith to fall back on. Every big, life changing change hit me with full force and it was hard to trust that any good could come of it. I was fortunate that my brother passed when I had already begun exploring Judaism. I had a framework in which to process my grief that most of the rest of my family didn’t have. I had a hope that in some way, he was in a better place and had completed his work here and that his life and death had an ultimate purpose even if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes. I found comfort in prayer and in looking for the good he had done in his life. Most of my family were left without that same comfort and it seemed to me like their grief process was more difficult for it.
Most of the plot twists that have come in my life have been far less serious than losing my brother. Some have even been comical. I have noticed, though, that since I began studying Judaism years ago, I have come to handle the plot twists of my life better and better. I’m sure ageing has some part in it as well, but a big part of it is that I no longer react so much to change, but instead, I wait, knowing that everything will work out for the good in some way if I’m patient enough. If it hasn’t yet…then we’re not to the end of that plotline yet. Knowing that there is an author writing the story of my life that cares deeply about each character in it rather than a room full of monkeys typing randomly on typewriters brings me comfort when suddenly there comes a huge shift in the story.
I trust in the Author, that He knows better than I how this story needs to play out. I just need to play my part the best way I can.
This message was timely for me because we’ve run into a bit of chaos when it comes to our conversion process recently. There is a lot that we thought was certain that isn’t now and we’re not sure how the story is going to play out. At worst, we may have to begin our process over again after our move, adding on 1-2 more years in process before we can complete. For my husband and I, 1-2 more years is little to worry about, but for our children, 1-2 years is a much bigger issue, particularly when it comes to their Jewish education as well as their hopes.
Years ago, such a plot twist this late in the story would have sent me reeling and reacting. I consider it a sign of great growth that I simply shrugged and said, “It will all work out some way or other, for the best,” and then went back to the work of living each day, davening, volunteering, raising and educating the kids, and preparing for our move. There is little time to worry about it before Purim, which inevitably leads to the rush of Pesach preparations. Homework from both the kids’ secular studies and their Orthodox Online Day School studies must still be overseen and done. Food has to get bought and cooked. Cleaning has to happen. Davening, mitzvahs, and tzedekah all still are a higher priority than worrying over things I simply can’t control. At some point, living as an Orthodox Jew became even more important than the process of becoming one, which I firmly believe will follow if we stay focused on living this life.
So, we check in with our Rabbis periodically to see how things are going and if anything more is needed from us to help the process, but beyond that? I leave it to above my pay grade except when I’m davening. I channel all my tears and pleading there, to the only One who ultimately has control of any of it and leave it there.
The rest of the time, I focus on playing my part in this story the very best way I know how and wait for this latest plot twist to work itself out for the good, even if that isn’t the way I would have written the story.
I trust the Author with my life because it’s His life to write. I’ve just been given the honor and responsibility of living it.