It’s no secret This is Us was the breakout show of the fall. We’ve talked about how you need to be watching it (if you aren’t already) and its significance a couple of times. It even made our top 50 pop culture releases of the year. I, for one, am a sucker for a feel-good family drama, but This is Us isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Throughout the series, the writers have pressed into awkward situations, character failure and questions about identity.
As I’ve watched the show unfold, the writing has also done something unexpected during my otherwise uneventful evenings spent lounging in front of the tv: I’ve felt the Lord share that it’s in the nuance of relationship—the good, the bad, the ordinary—that He reveals His character and redemptive nature. There are many times in my life that I wish God would use a talking donkey, or something just as obvious, to speak to me because I often need a sign or two before I recourse.
Here are three moments God has answered that prayer by using the most buzzed about series of the year:
God’s promises as our deliverer.
The first scene that captured my attention as a serious God-moment was during the very first episode. Mandy Moore plays Rebecca, the mom of the triplets the family drama is based around, and Milo Ventimiglia plays Jack, her husband. They are in the hospital and Rebecca is experiencing complications with the delivery of her triplets. She’s naturally freaking out and her doctor looks at her straight in the eye insisting that she trust him. In a series of words, the doctor assures Rebecca, “I will not fail you.” He does know what he’s doing after all. The scene is incredibly heightened with emotion as Rebecca is screaming through the pain of childbirth and the doctor’s ability to get her through it is the only security she has to fall back on.
At the time, I was uprooting my life from Brooklyn to Orlando. God seemed to be aligning everything in this direction, from travel arrangements to job opportunities. Yet, I felt like Peter when he begins sinking after taking his eyes of Jesus, fearful and crying out to God every few minutes for rescue from my worries. Was I making the right decision? Did He have my back? How could I know for sure?
God can use anything to speak words of affirmation and cut into our scared, stony hearts. This time, He used a man playing a medical professional on tv telling Mandy Moore who was playing a character with my namesake to remind me that His promises are true. In one three-minute scene on tv, God answered my soul’s searching questions. Chill. He’s got it. He will not fail you. And whatever He is birthing in your journey, He’ll be faithful to see it through. He does know what He’s doing after all.
You can be assured of the same.
Even when the events in your life unfold in a way you wouldn’t expect, God promises to bring things into faithful order in due time. The plot of This is Us is a huge marker to this biblical truth through the tragedy Jack and Rebecca experience that eventually gives way to their family being completed in a way they would never have expected.
God’s character as our father.
Recently, This is Us explored the complex subject of fatherhood and how it bestows a foundational sense of identity unto his children.
Young Randall, Jack and Rebecca’s adopted child, is struggling with finding a black older male figure to identify with amid his mostly white environment. Heeding the advice from a fellow parent, Jack and Rebecca decide to enroll Randall in a karate class led by a black instructor and filled with young boys who look just like him.
At the end of the episode, Jack is directed by Randall’s karate teacher to showcase his purpose and role in Randall’s life. Jack gets on the floor and begins doing push-ups when Randall is instructed to get on his back. The karate instructor tells Randall, “We are your community… when things get hard, we will be the ones to hold you up,” pointing to the responsibility of every dad in the room to showcase their strength and love to their sons by carrying them through life’s challenges. The moment between Randall and Jack reminded me of Deuteronomy 31:6. Throughout Scripture, we are reminded to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
And that’s the guarantee our Heavenly Father has lavished us with—He’s defeated everything this world could ever pit us up against; we’re carried by His strength.
Our identity in Christ.
In the same episode, a grown Randall is imagining an encounter with his adopted father after accidentally ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms. Randall asks a question of Jack that we all come reconcile in a similar way within our individual relationship with God. The question is one of sonship. Randall accuses his father in his pain towards a lack of identity, “I was a replacement for your dead baby. That’s all I’ve ever been.”
We’ve all been Randall before in one way or another.
We question our identity as God’s children and come to a point where our hearts reach out to Him and ask, “am I really yours?”
I believe that Jack encapsulated the answer to this question that mankind carries into eternity when he responded to Randall’s accusation against him, “The moment I saw you, I knew you were my boy.” The moment God knit you in your mother’s womb, you were His.
Sometimes, it takes longer for us to figure that out than we might anticipate and other times, it’s a truth we have to remind ourselves of each day. Through the gift of His son Jesus, we have inherited a right as children of God. Although it’s easy to believe that our painful circumstances are the end of the line when the bills pile up, our illnesses are diagnosed or our relationships fall apart, the truth is redemption is always unfolding in our lives.
What I’ve found to be true in my own journey is that God is faithful to pursue us with this truth, a truth that resounds eternal. It just may even find you watching tv on Thursday nights.