“When the Script of Life Changes”

“When the Script of Life Changes” by Katrina J. Zeno, MTS

Have you ever noticed that nobody gets the life they signed up for? I’ve talked to hundreds of women who enviously look at other women and think these women have the life they signed up for – they have the “perfect” marriage, job situation, or family mix; they never feel lonely, isolated, or snowed under; they always look cheerful, full of energy, and ready to volunteer.

Wrong.

If we scratch beneath the surface, we’ll most likely find dreams that died and losses that were sustained. Take my friend Leslie. Leslie graduated from college in 1987, worked as a nanny in France, and was still single at age 27. Obviously it’s not the end of the world to be single at 27, but if you’d plan to be married and having children by 23, sometimes it can feel like you missed God’s plan.

However, in God’s providence, Leslie met a handsome, concert pianist and wedding bells soon chimed. Within a year, a son was born and 17 months later another son. Baby stuff, diapers, and first smiles reawakened her original expectations for marriage and children. Then Leslie experienced a miscarriage, and another, and a third in which she almost bled to death. Suddenly, the script changed. Instead of the half-dozen children Leslie had hoped for, she and her husband had to avoid pregnancy just so she didn’t die. To the outside world, her life looked ideal: a beautiful brick house, two healthy, handsome boys, and a loving, talented husbanded. On the inside, Leslie had to adjust to a changed script, to the forced downsizing of her family, to the loss of children she would never have.

But Leslie is in good company. The Bible is full of men and women who experienced a changed script. Take Abraham, for example. He probably never planned to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and go to an unknown land. I’m sure he and Sarah never planned to be barren, and I don’t think a “vacation” in Egypt was on his top 10 list. But without God intervening to change the plan, Abraham wouldn’t have been the father of the Hebrew nation nor would Sarah have had any children. Precisely what wasn’t in the plan was what God used to birth the Hebrew people.

And look at Gideon – he was innocently beating out wheat in a winepress when the angel of the Lord commissioned him to lead Israel in battle. This was such a drastic change in plans that Gideon wanted to be sure: he put a fleece before the Lord and asked him to make the fleece wet while the ground was dry. God did. With this assurance, Gideon led 300 men into battle and was victorious. As a result, God’s plan, not man’s, was advanced.

Then there is the Moabite Ruth, who married a foreigner, a man from Bethlehem. As a young girl, she certainly didn’t dream of marrying a Hebrew! On top of that, her husband died, leaving her as a young, destitute widow. Right then Ruth could have cut her losses, returned to her mother’s house, and started over again. But she didn’t. She continued with the life she didn’t sign up for – she traveled with her mother-in-law back to Bethlehem where she eked out a living by picking up leftover grain. Through these circumstances, she met and married another Israelite, Boaz, and became the great-grandmother of King David.

The list of Old Testament changed scripts goes on: Joseph never intended to be sold as a slave, jailed in Egypt, or serve Pharaoh. Hosea wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a prostitute for a wife without God’s command. David planned to watch sheep all his life until the Lord anointed him king. Esther found herself queen of Persia where she interceded to save the Israelites from extermination.

These stories are but a preparation for the greatest script change of all: the Annunication. In an instant, Mary’s entire life changed. Whereas she intended to remain childless for the greater glory of God, she found herself “with child.” Instead of sharing the intimacies of birth with her mother and relatives, she shared them with Joseph, cows, and shepherds. The joy of consecrating her newborn son to God was interrupted by Simeon’s prophecy of sorrow. As a new mother, she fled her homeland and was forced to raise her infant son in a foreign land.

And that was only the beginning.

The rest of Mary’s life – and Peter’s and John’s and Mary Magdalen’s and Paul’s – testified constantly to a changed script. God conceived new possibilities and changed the course of history through them.

The same can be true of us. Instead of getting angry, bitter, or hard-hearted when God changes the script of life, we should be hope-filled, encouraged, inspired. We need to know that grace accompanies every script change, even the most painful of all: the sudden death of a child.

Death was the farthest thing from Ann and John Thompson’s minds as daylight crept into the sky on their eldest son’s 16th birthday. In fact, life was everywhere as John and 16-year-old Michael drove to the lake for a father/son fishing trip. Then, about mid-day, Ann received a phone call: John and Michael had been swept off a sandbar. The coast guard rescued John at the point of death, but they couldn’t find Michael.

As the reality of Michael’s death hit, Ann was blessed with a moment of infused grace. “I experienced an abiding knowledge that God had called Michael home,” she says. “The moments of conception and death are the soul’s most intimate encounters with God. I couldn’t imagine death being an accident, as if Michael’s soul was separated from his body outside of God’s power or plan.”

Even though Ann was tempted to think Michael shouldn’t have gone fishing, she realized there was a deeper issue: “If God was calling Michael home, he would have found another way to do it; the manner of his death was incidental,” she says. “God gave me blessed assurance that this was within his divine plan and Michael had lived out the number of his days.”

This “blessed assurance” didn’t exempt Ann from grief, loss, and depression, nor the awful moments of walking into her son’s bedroom to wake him and realizing he wasn’t there. “We chose not to discuss Michael’s death publicly for many years because we couldn’t talk about it without being overwhelmed by tears,” Ann says.

Now, 14 years later, the pain and tears have dimmed while the core conviction of God’s providence burns brightly. Her experiences of loss, grief, a changed script, and confidence in God’s plan helps others navigate the turbulent waters of eating disorders, family dysfunctions, and relational wounds through her work as a professional counselor. No matter how drastically the script may have changed for herself or her clients, Ann is confident that grace resides within that change. “My clients sense that I have walked the via dolorosa and have found joy again,” Ann says.

And in that joy, Ann is a living testament to the truth heralded in the Bible from Adam and Eve to Revelation: Even when things don’t go the way we planned, God is still in control. He’s the one writing the script. He’s the one with the master plan.

  • "Man...cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS 24)