Parks and Rec and Jesus
One of my all-time favorite shows is Parks and Recreation. I recommend it to people but I often recommend they begin it at the end of the second season. When they really dialed in the format, the jokes, the story… everything just fit. It has so much joy. It has so much targeted humor about politics and life and geeks and culture and… it’s just a great show. Is it for kids? Nope. Does it deal with things that I disagree with? In many senses, yes. But it’s also, at times, breathtaking in its honesty. Yes. And for that? I love it.
Shows these days are often so driven by advertising, by a cultural or political agenda, by a need to exist, that they lose any sense of story, of truth. Parks and Rec was never that way. It had a sense of knowing what it was, who it was, and why it was, that had nothing to do with the worst things about our culture. It believed in its characters. It believed in its story. It never apologized for its flaws. It never really bragged about its best parts. It just was.
So when it ended, it ended at a time when I was going through major life upheaval. When my church plant failed, I was in a tremendous place of crisis and shame and darkness. I was struggling just to understand why I had watched my dream crumble and fall. To give you an example, I couldn’t watch any drama or “realistic” shows because the stress I felt would be entirely compounded by those shows. I couldn’t watch characters in crisis without descending into a panic attack. So I thought, “Hey, why not Parks and Rec?” And then God used that show to really walk me through my ending.
As that show ended, I watched these characters move and grow and change and… it was okay. And I don’t mean that word in the sense of judging the quality of the show’s ending, but more that it showed life happening and still, everything was going to be okay. And that’s what I was struggling with, then. I was struggling to understand my own flaws and faults. I was struggling to see any good that had come from two years of back-breaking sacrifice. And Parks and Rec? It helped me.
We have recently been watching our way back through it and I have to say, I am getting more life lessons out of it than the first time through. I am watching it for the laughs, obviously, but I’m also listening to these well thought out characters. I am gleaning bits and pieces for where I am today. And though it might sound strange, I am watching to see what God might show me through such a silly medium. I am remembering that time, a year ago, and am feeling more peace over it than I did then. I am seeing my way forward, maybe, an inch at a time. And I am realizing some really beautiful things that come when we’re honest with ourselves and don’t try to be anyone else.
I’m just a character on a show. (Please understand that as the beginning of a metaphor.) I have been written into a story by God. This is core to my faith. The idea that I am telling His story, through my tiny little insignificant part, and that He is the Author, is one of the things that gives me hope for my future.
That I can be spastic and full of ideas like Leslie Knope.
That I can be an egotistical, lazy idiot, like Tom Haverford.
That I can be a hypochondriac like Chris Traeger.
That ultimately I am more like Ron Swanson than almost anyone else on this planet.
And that in all of that, it’s going to end up okay.