A dear friend recently asked us two very brave questions. He asked what he does that draw us to him and what he does that push us away. It felt like such an honor to be trusted with these vulnerable questions. As I thought, I was reminded of an exercise I’ve done a number of times with teams throughout my years of Residence Life. We’re each given a long list of different values. (You can see a version here.) After several rounds of eliminating, each person is left with their top five values, which they’re asked to define in their own way. No matter how similar the group may seem, each person has their own list of top values and different ways of defining them. These top values are often representative of the “why?” behind so many of the decisions we make. We choose our top values again and again over ones we’ve don’t value as much.
One of my top values that has shown up time and time again is the value of growth.
I want growth for myself. I want growth for others. I want to move towards better things. I want to move towards a better story. And I want that for you too.
As I pondered our friend’s question, I realized that the thing that draws me to his friendship the most is the fact that when given the choice, he always chooses growth over comfort. He isn’t content to stay as he is. He is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions and do the uncomfortable thing. He would rather grow than be comfortable. I love this about him, and tend to find this quality among my closest friends.
I didn’t start watching Gilmore Girls until I was in college and beyond, and by then all seven seasons had been aired. (It is sometimes my favorite to discover a show or series this way. You may miss out on the shared experience of hanging on cliffhangers with friends or co-workers at the water cooler each week, but you also get the luxury of watching or reading at your own pace, knowing that the whole of the saga is at your fingertips.) It was one of my favorite ways to unwind after a day at work by popping in an episode and letting myself be entertained by the witty banter and quirky characters of this show.
When a Gilmore Girls reunion was announced, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to it. The show ended with a number of unanswered questions, and I was excited to see what had become of these characters in the ten years since we’d seen them last.
So, I did what any frugal fan might. I signed up for a trial month of Netflix to watch the reunion.
And while this may be an unpopular opinion, for all the funny moments and nostalgia, I didn’t love coming back to Stars Hollow the way I thought I would.
It took me a while to figure out why. After all, so much was the same.
Isn’t that what fans want in a reunion? Their favorite elements unchanged? Their beloved characters still acting like themselves? Was it possible to have too much of a good thing?
But after spending several showers thinking about it, I realized that while some things had changed in Stars Hollow, Rory and Lorelai remained virtually the same. Here they were, still wrestling with the same issues without showing any signs of progress. Rory still felt just as directionless and confused, still making poor choices with guys. Lorelai still felt just as scared of commitment and change, still avoidant of working through hard things. In some ways the lack of growth also showed some regression in their characters. (spoiler alert) For Rory, she had gone back on her stance on not being in open relationships to being the other woman to an engaged man. For Lorelai, she had a terrible moment of lashing out at her deceased dad, seemingly forgetting any good in their relationship.
I felt tremendously disappointed to find that these two smart, beautiful, talented women with so much potential had chosen paths of comfort over growth, ensuring that they were so similar to their personas of ten years ago. They valued comfort over growth and that felt so loud in these four reunion episodes.
I’m convinced we always get to choose what kind of story we want. We get to choose if we want a courageous story or a cowardly one. But the truth is that comfort and growth are rarely both available together. We have to choose if we want to grow or if we want to be comfortable.Which do we value more? Although Rory and Lorelai are fictional, I’m still disappointed for what they represent; the choice so many make for a comfortable story of familiarity instead of a story of growth and courage.
With New Year’s right around the corner, there’s a surge of well-intentioned resolutions to change. Gyms are joined. Diets are started. Books are bought. Promises are made. But how long do they last? When enough weeks have gone by, most of us would rather be comfortable than truly grow and change. Our values shine out louder than our well-intentioned resolutions.
But I’m convinced that we were made to grow. We were made to change, to become more than we currently are. I think this is what the Lord intends for us. And I think this is why we are commanded so often to not be afraid. It is a frightening thing to walk away from comfort and familiarity. It is down-right scary to do something new and different, hard and brave. It takes strength and courage to choose something better.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
This isn’t a call to try harder or to do better. This isn’t a command to muster some strength and bravery of my own making. I can’t miss the fact that every command to be courageous is accompanied by the truth that the Lord goes with us. The Lord doesn’t leave us or forsake us. This is why we can change. This is why we can venture into growth and give up our stagnant places of comfort.
Real courage for a different story can not be mustered. Lasting courage for better things can only be found in the Lord. He is the one who give my heart courage when I am afraid. He is the one who faces my circumstances with me, helping me to be brave, helping me to choose growth over comfort. He is the one who can give us a better story, because he makes us into better, braver people.
There was a lot I didn’t love about the reunion (the dysfunctional affair of Logan/Rory for starters, the whole Lorelai-going-camping thing, too much time towards the disturbing Stars Hollow musical, Rory’s many poor decisions with men) but I won’t deny that there there were a few things worth mentioning that I DID love.
Here are my top 5:
- JESS! I’ve always been a fan of his, but he felt like someone who has really worked through his own issues and has grown tremendously since we saw him last. I really liked seeing his development, even in the brief glimpses we got of him. Although I am still rooting for Rory to be with him, I think he is actually too good for Rory now since he’s grown up and she has stayed pretty emotionally immature.
- Emily Gilmore. She allowed her grief to change her in some hard but good ways. She hasn’t worked through all her issues, but I loved the progress she made following her husband’s death. And seeing in her in a t-shirt and jeans was pretty crazy. Plus, her yelling at that DAR interview was my favorite.
- Kirk’s pig movie. This felt like a familiarity that I enjoyed. Silly but fun.
- All the cameos by Parenthood peeps! This was a fun tribute to some of Lauren Graham’s other work and just added to the charm of this whole thing. I loved seeing Mae Whitman and Peter Kruse. (Also, I recently discovered that Peter & Lauren have been dating since their Parenthood days. Who knew!)
- The town looking MAGICAL in the last episode and that it was all Kirk’s doing. Atta boy, Kirk.