Recently, millions like me said goodbye to dear friends they never met in Scranton, PA when TV show “The Office” aired its final episode. I experienced similar goodbyes with the gangs at “Seinfeld” and “Friends” and “30 Rock”. Every time I get dumped by my TV favorites, I’m in mourning for a few days. Despite the fact I know they are just fictitious characters, I want to stay in touch. I want to visit with them each week where my role is just to listen and laugh. And I’ve invested YEARS of my life in their stories, only to have them end – usually anticlimactically. What can I say? I get attached.
Maybe because this wasn’t my first rodeo, as y’all would say here, I braced myself for the sting of abandonment and the disappointing assessment of the finale with the Dunder Mifflin gang. But something I did not brace myself for during the show’s final season was the plotline where office sweethearts Jim and Pam’s marriage was under duress. I got mad at them and the writers for allowing such a story line to play out. I counseled them with “couch coaching” because I guess I needed someone’s relationship to demonstrate that a loving couple can get through anything gracefully. I loyally turned to them week after week to escape true disagreements in my own marriage, not to take on a make believe one in theirs. And as they worked it out what made me laugh was my own reaction to the far-fetched resolution that Jim decided not to pursue his dream job to appease Pam’s apprehension of leaving Scranton (of all places!). I said out loud in my best Homer Simpson impersonation, “STUPID, STUPID television! That’s not real life!”
Then just when I thought we were done with tearful goodbyes, the cast held a “Retrospective”. The woman who played crazy Kelly Kapoor, alongside her self-absorbed on-screen boyfriend Ryan, said something that has literally haunted me since the words escaped her lips. The actress and co-writer said something like, “Most of us think we’re Jim and Pam, but most of us are more like Kelly and Ryan.” Really? NO ONE would want to be Kelly and Ryan. They were the most dysfunctional on again/off again couple ever. Watching them made us feel better about our real life relationships because theirs was so dramatically hopeless. No man daydreamed about Kelly and no woman pined over Ryan. But Jim and Pam were boy next door marries good girl and good friend. We fell in love not only with Jim and Pam’s individual integrity, but even more deeply in love with the “them.”
I thought about my own marriage and wondered if as a couple we were cheered or jeered by most people? Do we flail like Kelly and Ryan? Does our audience consider us a comedy or a tragedy? We all would like to think we are a couple that would draw a large fan base and not a bunch of maniacal, self-absorbed brats. But was crazy Kelly right?
Well, when I got to church on Sunday, my insecurities were addressed as I listened to an entertaining story from Pastor Ben’s college days. He told the story of typical teenage buddies with perhaps too much time on their hands. His tale included a fast car, a silly, reckless “Watch this!” stunt that he and his friends decided to allow to play out and the ending was totally believable.
And voilà! Somehow I got my “connect the dots” and much needed closure.
“The Office” was deliberately shot as if it were a documentary intended to capture the story of any office in any town. At times we saw the characters at their best and at other times – their flawed worst. We are in a real life documentary, but it’s God behind the camera. He lets it play out, too. He believes in us, trusts in us, and knows us better than we’ll ever understand. When we pray – our soliloquy is raw. And even if we are Kellys and Ryans to one another, we are always Jims and Pams to Him, because God sees us through our Savior Jesus’ eyes. He tunes in to our brilliance and just as faithfully to our “Watch this!” stupidity. But the good turns GRAND when we turn to Him in our jubilation, and our tragedy is comforted by THE Comforter. Take your every angle shot – however awkward – to the Man upstairs, and when you’re going through your retrospection waiting in line at the pearly gates, maybe you can feel like you did Him proud.
He is always rooting for us, has never missed an episode and despite our dreadful ratings proudly wears the T-shirt to boast we are the best characters in the best story EVER. But don’t spread those peacock feathers – it’s because He is the Author and Perfector of our faith that we have anything magnificent to brag about to begin with. Our triumphs are glorious and our lessons are painful, but undeniably Divine. We have the best job on the planet because we are the heroes and heroines cast into His story. Do it justice by glorifying your Camera Man and Number One Fan. Let’s face it, without Him, all His help, and His loyalty our show would have been cancelled long ago.