The trouble with mishaps, injustices, tragedies, or foolish choices is that we have no way of knowing how events might’ve otherwise been worse. Did this minor fender bender save me from a head-on collision? Did this knee injury stop me from breaking a leg? Did the tipped over jelly jar in the refrigerator, prevent me from writing that vicious e-mail?
I’ve often wondered how my life would’ve been different if I chose to go to the same High School all four years. I wonder what was the point of getting my pilot’s license? Why did my knee have to give out in the first few miles of the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon? Why did those friends move away? Why did God put those obnoxious people in my life? Why was feeding my baby so hard? And if these events didn’t occur, would things have been worse for me?
For the last year I’ve been rewriting a novel I wrote in High School inspired by The Lord of the Rings and a little bottle of fairy dust that my grandma gave me one Christmas. The story is called Providence: Heady and Headless. And through it, I’ve learned how an author must treat his or her characters. While I’m able to reform them, force a change of mind upon them, or insert an all-knowing wise wizard to explain the truth, that would be intruding too much. Characters turn into puppets, and the magic is lost.
No, I can’t force them, but I can bring along rainstorms, robbers, cults, insulting teachers, dull swords, forks in the road, and conflicting personalities. Thrown into a labyrinth of conflict they change: some for the better, some for the worse. It’s like medicine. Some that take it grow wings; others grow fangs. Or as CS Lewis says in Mere Christianity: we are all growing into either more heavenly creatures or more devilish creatures.
That must mean that what I have called unjust or tragic may actually be a mercy. Their hurt to me could be the preventative maintenance of an otherwise larger catastrophe. Wouldn’t I have moved into that house of sand if the waves hadn’t washed it away? Wouldn’t I have gone on slandering others, had I not been slandered myself? Wouldn’t I have continued thinking the world of myself, if others hadn’t thought ill of me?
I can’t explain every situation. How can I? I’m not the author. But I know when the transformation of my thinking occurs. It happens when I stop thinking of an event as evil and start thinking of it as sad or sometimes—when God’s grace has been injected into me in double dosages—as humorous.