I Hate Spoilers
The Monday after Avengers: Infinity War came out, one of my 9th grade students walked in to class loudly exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! When [character] died, I cried!” and promptly clapped both hands over his mouth when he saw the utter rage in my neck veins.
Fast-forward one year to the release of Avengers: Engame: I’m scrolling through English soccer highlights when I see someone has posted in the comments of Man City’s latest recap, “[characters X, Y, & Z] die in Endgame.”
It was right then and there I decided that for Star Wars Episode IX, I was getting tickets for opening night, even if I had to go alone at midnight.
Everyone Hates Spoilers
I think of the stories of American fans of Charles Dickens storming New York harbor when the latest chapter of one of his novels was due to arrive from England. I remember my friends camping out overnight outside of a book store (remember those?) and took off work the next day so they could read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before anyone spoiled it for them.
What is it about spoilers that we hate so much? These stories are entirely fictional. Many of us will read/watch them multiple times and enjoy them each time, even though we already know what will happen. What’s more, we desperately want to know what happens in these stories. We can’t wait to know! Why wouldn’t we want to know sooner rather than later? Why does it matter that someone told us as opposed to finding out ourselves?
For some reason, it DOES matter. As it turns out, something deep within us isn’t satisfied simply finding out the end of the story. We want to experience it. We want the story to unfold in its course. We want to discover it piecemeal, unlocking each beat in the right time, in the right way, with all of its foreshadowing, tension, drama, climax, and denouement.
It’s not enough to just know what happens or even to know that everything is going to be ok. We probably knew that already, actually. It’s rare in the modern world for fictional stories to have anything but a happy ending. But somehow, finding out from a friend or an internet meme somehow “ruins the surprise” but if we experience the story ourselves, in its own time, we are instead just “surprised.”
Moreover, those of us who love these stories take care not to “spoil” endings or major plot points even if someone does ask us about it. These stories have a certain integrity—a sacredness, even.
God Hates Spoilers
I think God feels the same way.
And I think this is why, in the stories of our lives, God often leaves us in our uncertainty. He knows the proper time and a place for events to unfold and for knowledge to be revealed. He knows the beauty that matures in the waiting, growing, stretching—yes, even pain and suffering—of the “not yet’s” in our lives. Like an expert story teller, filmmaker, or song writer, God is the perfect author. He knows his craft. His expositions, complications, antagonists, all work to carve our life in exquisite relief. He expertly directs the acts and scenes, all the while allowing us the freedom to choose as we will. Yet somehow he never abandons us to walk alone. This is the mystery and the beauty of the Christian belief in providence. As the saying goes, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”
How many times in your life have you wondered why God didn’t’ just give you the answer now?
Will I get into this program? Will I get the job? Will I ever meet somebody? Is this relationship the one? What’s my purpose? Where is my life heading? Will I ever get through this? Where will I be a year from now? Will we ever get pregnant? When are they gonna start treating me how I want? How long do I have to struggle with this? When am I gonna get better? What am I supposed to do now?
But do we really want to know the answer?
If you ran into someone with inside knowledge of an unfinished storyline you love—say someone like George Lucas, George R.R. Martin, or Kevin Feige—and they offered: “Hey! Do you wanna know what happens? I’ll tell you now if you want,” would you take them up on it?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no: Not like this. Not now. We know we’d be missing out on something.
If I’m honest, the same is true of the burning questions I have for God. Yes, there’s a part of me that wants to know the specifics now. But there’s a wiser, saner, more real part of me that knows I can trust the master storyteller.
I will wait, Lord. I will trust you. In your time, in your wisdom, in your way. Grant me the grace to accept it.
And yes, I saw Star Wars episode XI on opening night and no I’m not going to tell you anything about it. Jesus told me “no spoilers.”
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? 28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. 29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 30If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ 32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
- Matthew 6:25-34