happy endings…

The last few days I have had to stay home sick, so I’ve watched a lot of cheesy Hallmark movies. I’ve come to the conclusion that they all have two things in common—a crisis or obstacle that the characters need to overcome and a happy ending. This is true whether the movie is about family, friendship, romance, etc. There is always a conflict or obstacle, and it always works itself out.

I honestly hadn’t noticed the importance of the crisis or obstacle to a good story line until I watched a movie where it seemed that there wasn’t going to be one—everything seemed like it would be smooth sailing until the ending. I was 1 hour in to a 1.5 hour movie, and I kept thinking, “is this really it?” That’s when it occurred to me that in order for it to be a good movie, it is essential for the characters to have some conflict or obstacle to overcome. If they don’t have one, then they can’t fully appreciate their happy ending. The crisis or conflict makes them realize who they are and what is truly important to them and what they are willing to stand up for. It makes them stronger as individuals, and stronger as a family (or couple depending on the movie). The conflict is essential to them getting to the happy ending and to them fully appreciating their happy ending.

As I was thinking about it, I think the same is true of us in our lives. We are living our story on our way to our happy ending. We may think that our happy ending is marriage, kids, a good job, making a difference—but while those are great things, that’s not the happy ending I’m talking about. I was reading today in Revelation 22:1-6, where John describes the end of time when we will be standing before God and the Lamb and we will finally be able to see His face and His name will be on our foreheads. There will be no darkness at all—because God Himself will be our light for all eternity!! That right there is our happy ending.

But just like in a movie, can we truly appreciate that ending without a crisis or conflict or some sort of obstacle that we need to overcome? I would argue that we can’t. I think God allows us to have conflicts and crisis in our lives to help us take stock of who we are and what we stand for. It is the difficult times that mold us into His image and refine us and make us stronger. It is through enduring and overcoming the crises in our lives that we are fully able to appreciate the happy ending God has in store for us as described in Revelation 22. I mean, how can we fully appreciate seeing the face of God if everything in our lives were perfect and we felt that we didn’t need God? How can we appreciate God Himself being our light for all eternity if we didn’t go through times of complete darkness when we thought we would never see the light again? You see, the crisis is for a purpose…it is the part of our story that is brining us to the amazing ending when we will be with God for all eternity. It helps mold us into the people that God is calling us to be, it helps us realize who we are and what we stand for.

I find great encouragement in this. Going through challenges and crises is a normal part of life. It’s also just a chapter in our story. The crisis is not what defines us. What does define us is how we overcome that challenge. And the cool thing about real life (as opposed to movies) is that God Himself will give us the strength we need to overcome the obstacles in our lives. We know that whatever we are going through is for a purpose—it’s not random. Just like the challenges in the movies are all difficult but able to be overcome, so is whatever we are going through. God is not going to give us a challenge that we cannot overcome. We can make it to the end…and it is going to be the most happily ever after that we can ever imagine.

 

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“it’s not about a cause, it’s about people.”

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As humans, we have a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves—we want our lives to matter and we want to contribute to something meaningful and lasting. I think that is part of the reason why we love supporting a variety of causes—whether it’s sponsoring children to go to school, building free medical clinics, cleaning up the environment—we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

The other day I heard a speaker say something that at first seamed quite simple, but as I’ve thought about it, realized it’s quite profound. “It’s not about a cause, it’s about a person.” As that quote has been running through my head the last few weeks, I’ve realized it is easy to get so caught up in planning good programs and in providing great opportunities for volunteers to be engaged and to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, that it is easy to lose sight that the reason we do what we do in the first place is because of the individual people in our communities that are affected by our programs.

It’s not about running a great school, it is about Nila, Deny, and Petra having the opportunity to go to school for the first time. It’s not just about running an amazing health education program, it’s about Nadia, Irma, and Febi learning the importance of proper nutrition so that their children can be healthy and have a shot at a better future. It’s not about creating good job training classes, it’s about Siska, Nurjani, and Patma having the ability to earn an income and be able to provide food for their families.

The programs are how we impact people—but the programs aren’t why we do the programs–because ultimately our goal should be making a difference in the lives of individual people. We run the best possible programs we can and provide the best services we can because we know that it will touch lives. Ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road, the lives of Nila, Deny, Petra, and the hundreds of other women and children just like them will completely transformed because we made an investment in them.

It’s not about a cool slogan or a catchy cause—it’s about making a difference in the lives of people who will forever be changed because we cared enough to reach out to them. And I would argue that that is the most meaningful thing we can be a part of.