A Day in the Life
I smiled when I recently saw that several seasons of 24 were available on one of the video streaming services. [Editor's note: All seasons are currently on Amazon Prime.] I smiled because 24 was a fascinating series. I did not actually watch it on live television, but instead watched it a season at a time via DVD. I really have no idea how anyone could have watched it week-to-week because every episode ended on a cliff-hanger, at least during the first few seasons. It was hard to turn it off after a few episodes, so I can only imagine what watching weekly would have been like.
PREVIOUSLY ON 24
If you are not familiar with it or if you did not see it, the premise is that a single season takes place during one 24-hour day (thus the name). Each episode represents one hour of that day, except for the last season, which only had 12 episodes, but even then, they represented one hour. The plot follows a fictional government agency called CTU, which stands for Counter-Terrorist Unit, and how it responds to a crisis. The main character throughout the series is Jack Bauer, and he is what superheroes want to be when they grow up.
THE FOLLOWING TAKES PLACE BETWEEN 3:00PM and 4:00PM.
After watching a few seasons of it, I noticed two main rules for the series, at least in how the plot played out, and both were very frustrating. The first rule is that you cannot determine the plot of the second half of the season (hours 13 through 24) from the first half of the season (hours one through 12). What I mean is that the plot twists in the first half are the outer layers of the onion so-to-speak, but they develop into something that is not identifiable from the beginning. In some ways it is maddening because I would try to guess where the plot was going, but was always flummoxed because I could not see the end.
The second rule for watching the series, and this was even more frustrating, was that no character was safe. Main characters, favorite characters, new characters, long-time characters, basically any character can die, go through bad experiences, lose loved ones, and otherwise have the bottom fall out from under them, even Jack Bauer. You learn this at the end of the first season, though I will not provide the spoiler, when you also meet a villain who is on my top-ten villains list. I would be watching an episode (it could be any episode) and a character that I have gotten to really like from the last few seasons, suddenly gets killed and I would be ready to yell in frustration because plots are not supposed to be this uncertain. As you can tell, this was not a one-time experience.
HARD DAYS AND HARD NIGHTS
As I reflected on the show, I realized the two rules that frustrated me in the series are also two things that are applicable as I follow Christ.
WITH THE FIRST, I cannot see how the rest of my life plays out, or even how the rest of this week or even today plays out. I do not know how the events of my past, both the successes and the failures, will affect the future. The hard times of the past, the bleakness and darkness and brokenness, impact what lies ahead, but I do not know how. When I grow frustrated or fearful because I do not know the details of the future, I need to remember that it is not my job to know the details. God is in control of the past, present, and future, and my job is to rest in Him and seek Him and know that my future is secure in Him. He knows what the future holds and where I am going, so I need to confess my fear to Him and trust Christ.
WITH THE SECOND, I am not safe, not in the way I think of “safe,” which usually involves no pain, no hardship, and no difficulties. I live in a broken and sinful world that has been affected by sin. When sickness strikes home, when depression and anxiety immobilize me and I cannot pick up the phone or go out of the house, when my air conditioner breaks and I am trying to figure out how to pay for it, when I lose my job, when bad things happen to my children and my heart cries out, “why”, I need to remember that the Lord has not gone anywhere. He has not abandoned me or given up on me. He promises to use all things for the good of those who are called by Him according to His purpose and who love Him.
I also need to remember that suffering is part of following Christ. This has been striking as I have reflected on Romans 5, where Paul says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (v.3-5). Suffering and hard things are not wasted in our walk with Christ, nor are we immune to them because Christ Himself suffered, and to follow Him means will suffer likewise.
I have not gone back and watched any of the seasons or episodes from 24. If I do, it will be a very different viewing experience because I would know what would happen, or at least I would not be as surprised even if I did not remember everything. Likewise, one day, by His grace, I will look upon Christ with my own eyes. At that point, if I were to look back at this life, there would be no surprises and all would be made new. Until then, I need to rest in God’s promise, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).