Life Unexpected on the CW has certainly become an unexpected favorite in my television viewing schedule. Before it aired, I was intrigued by its premise and potential. I recommended the show in a previous column, thinking that the story of a 16-year-old foster kid attempting to locate her biological parents for their signatures so she could be emancipated and instead finding herself in their temporary guardianship couldn’t help being at least a little interesting. I started watching Life Unexpected for your sake and my curiosity. I figured I couldn’t just make a recommendation and then not follow up, so I kept watching each week. My assessment: the show is interesting and a bit of a guilty pleasure (like most on the CW), but beneath the slick, television production surface Life Unexpected is a study in the consequences of our life choices. If you need more evidence, I am exhibit A. As a consequence of my decision to give it one chance, I’m hooked … to a predominantly teen show … broadcast on the CW. I freely acknowledge that I could’ve prevented this, but if anyone asks, I only watched for the good of the column.
As I have watched this show week after week, I have realized that it is not just about living with the consequences of our past so-called big mistakes. It is not just a show about a girl and guy who had sex in high school and the baby that followed, grew up, I came back to live with them. A lot of the show is drawn from the drama of that moment, and it is true that the consequences of some of our mistakes affect us and others for a lifetime, which is a sobering enough thought. However, Life Unexpected also powerfully illustrates the consequences of our daily choices— the words we say and things we do because they feel good to us in the moment. The choices we may never even consider from the perspective of those we love. The choices we make as we’re moving through life that don’t stop time or shake the earth—choices that allow us to assume that no one is hurt and everything is good. Life Unexpected does us the (kind of) favor of revealing that this is almost never the case. Every choice has consequences.
If you are anything like me, the deeper implications of Life Unexpected threaten to paralyze you mid-sentence, mid-stride, even mid-life. I don’t even like to decide what I’m going to pack in my lunch or what I’m going to wear every day, and realistically these choices only affect me. When faced with scenes of Lux (Britt Robertson) telling secrets that have the potential to ruin people’s careers or Cate (Shiri Appleby) acting selfishly in ways that push away all the people she loves, I can’t help but feel a healthy dose of fear about the damage that my choices are poised to cause. Are the choices I make really as harmless as they think they are? Do they really only affect today? These are questions we never really get to know the answers to in the moment. Every time I realize this, the paralysis that only threatened before slowly and fully sets in.
The truth is, though, we don’t need paralysis to keep us from making bad or ill-informed or selfish choices. We need wisdom. We will never find it our own, but we can find it. James said: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Wisdom is the one thing that will keep us from destroying ourselves and each other even when we don’t have all the answers. Without it, we are all headed for a mess—a more broken family tree, a more broken circle of friends, and a great deal of brokenness in general. But as we allow ourselves to be reminded of our need for wisdom, whether by Life Unexpected or life itself, we have the opportunity to heal past brokenness and avoid it in the future.
Rachel Decker writes bi-weekly TV columns for RELEVANTMagazine.com.