As I continue my ongoing obsession about what I should be doing at this stage in my life, I find myself thinking about the short-lived TV show, Joan of Arcadia. My whole family loved this show. It was about a smart-mouthed teen-aged girl, played by Amber Tamblyn, who is given assignments by God. It was not preachy, nor saccharin sweet. It was very funny. It had interesting characters played by great actors. And it dealt with the every day trials of life experienced by teenagers and their parents.
God shows up in the form of ordinary people and Joan is the only one who knows that he or she is God. God gives Joan assignments and refuses to explain why Joan is supposed to do them. Joan does them reluctantly, grudgingly, and with a lot of back talk and eye-rolling. Their relationship is a source of much of the humor in the show. Joan says things to God that only a rude, self-absorbed teenager would say, but which all of us have thought: “What’s in it for me?” “I am going to look so stupid doing this!” and “Why do I have to do this?”
But unlike real life, Joan often gets to see the results of her assignments and gets confirmation from God when she has done them well. In some cases, she is the catalyst for people meeting each other or finding common ground with one another. In others, she is in a position to offer an empathetic ear to someone who desperately needs it. In all of the episodes, there are common themes; the importance of connecting with each other; and the need to counter darkness by realizing one’s true potential. In this show, God operates in subtle ways and always through people like Joan. It portrayed an image of God at work in the world that I could accept and relate to!
I have been thinking about the show lately because I have been asking questions of the Universe/God that Joan, the self-absorbed teenager might ask: “Why did the Universe want me to take this job?” “What’s in this job for me?” “Isn’t this a step backward in my life?” In my mind, I sound as whiney and rude as Joan in the show. So, I have been thinking about some of the answers God gave Joan on the show: “Sometimes the assignments I give you are not always about you” and “Sometimes you won’t know why I asked you to do something so you have to trust that there is a good reason.” So, in my year of “acting as if the Universe has a plan for me”, I will stay at this job, see what I can learn from it, see how I can contribute while there, and trust that things will become clearer with time. Thanks Joan!