Thursday, March 10, 2016

What genre is your life?

Like the characters of books, and figures all through history, we all have good and bad stories we can tell about the way our lives shaped up. Maybe one of the secrets of living a contented life is to keep focusing on the best ones we have, even when the worst ones have the potential to really drag us down. If somebody asked which genre best describes your life, what would you say? A lighthearted comedy, a heavy drama, a feel-good romance, a page-turning adventure? Maybe we could reply, 'All of the above, in different ways.'

For example, consider Bible hero Jacob. He was an elderly father, when he arrived in Egypt with his family, was reunited with his son, Joseph, and introduced to the Pharoah. The ruler asked how old he was, and this was Jacob's reply. 'The years of my sojourning are 130 - a short and hard life, not nearly as long as my ancestors were given.' (Genesis 47:9-10)

Our natural instinct may be to laugh at his opinion about the shortness of his life, but I was thinking of his assessment about it being 'hard'. It's an interesting statement, coming from a man who was chosen, just like his father and grandfather, to be abundantly blessed. Since he was one of the three patriarchs, why would he choose to make such a glum declaration?

Jacob was visited by an angel and the ground upon which he lay was promised to all of his descendants for years to come. His cheating uncle didn't want to take him off the payroll, because it was obvious how abundantly his flocks and herds were being blessed while Jacob worked for him. Jacob inherited a birthright that didn't even start out being his. He was clearly given precedence over his older twin brother, who didn't value the things of God as highly. He had twelve fine, strong sons and two women who loved him. (Well, at least two. Those maid servants may have been fond of him too.) At the time of his return to his childhood land, he was very wealthy, and made peace with his brother. When we hear anything like, "You'll be like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," we get excited, thinking that means great things will happen to us.

Yet I get how Jacob could make the gloomy claim he did. Even a blessed life doesn't mean sitting around living the good life every day. We each have more than one story we can tell.

This describes the same man. He was treated as second best by his father, who favoured his brother. In fact, he was given a name which meant 'heel' and had to live with it. He had to flee his angry twin for fear of being murdered, and never saw his beloved mother again. Tricked by his scheming uncle into working hard for twice as long as he'd expected, he had to leave by stealth. He lost his most beloved wife in childbirth. His daughter was raped. His eldest son slept with his concubine and the next two went completely berserk and massacred a whole group of people in a town. He was tricked into thinking his favourite son had been savagely mauled to death by wild animals, which grieved him for years until he found out he'd been tricked.

My own life could make a fairly dreary book about the woes of an insecure teenager who had one issue after another with peers at school. It could also be a 'poor us' bio about bringing up three kids on a really tight budget, or a tear-jerker about suffering multiple miscarriages. But on the other hand, it could be a laugh-out-loud saga about events in a homeschooling household, a feel-good adventure about being homeless and whizzing off in a caravan with a 9-year-old, 5-year-old and new born baby, or a reflective journal about my writing and publishing journey. I think I like those last ones the best.

What genre is your life?


  1. Thanks Paula for the prompting to reflect on my life's journey. As you said most of our lives would not fit into one genre and mine is no exception. Fearless as a child, I tended to be the one my sisters turned to to 'fix' little issues they faced. That got me into a fair bit of strife growing up and while I continued to make some pretty significant mistakes, I was grateful to God for not abandoning me as a lost cause. After surviving a life threatening medical condition in the early 80s and the breakdown of my marriage I decided that I since I had a bit of a quirky sense of humour and saw the funny side of things that I should develop that part of my life. It was just as well because my journey into writing needed just that and has served me well over the past 18 years. I have always been able to laugh at myself so I'm not sure if that comes under the heading of 'comedy of errors' or 'potential tragedy turns into triumph'. Whatever genre or genres I fit into I think my life has been an interesting learning curve and I tend to just thank God for all He is to me and try to enjoy every day He gives me.

  2. Thanks, Lesley. What a great reflection. Sounds like the 80s were surely a time of trial for you too. (For me it was when a lot of horrible school stuff was happening.) What you say is so true. Whatever we've been through, we have the chance to stand at the other end to reflect the lessons we've learned, and recognise the way God has worked, which we're too close to see at the time. I really get your point about focusing on your sense of humour too. What a great point from which to view life. That's one of my favourite genres, come to think of it :)