Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grey's Anatomy and the Problem of Suffering

My favorite thing about last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy was how the cast suddenly realized they were actually characters in a soap opera. First there was Alex Karev’s reflection on dating:

“She works here at Seattle Grace Mercy Death, so I'm sure she’s pretty much gonna go crazy or get cancer or shot by a gunman or hit by a truck, so don’t get your hopes up for Karev’s big happily-ever-after.” A good observation, especially since that is only the tragedies that have happened to women Alex Karev dated. Other members of the cast have been bludgeoned by an icicle, blown up by a homemade explosive, drug under a bus, killed in an attempt to jump to the top of the donor list (only to reappear for an extended run as a ghost/hallucination) or drown.

Karev’s comment is flippant, but Meredith Grey gets to the heart of the matter:

“The universe says, ‘Screw you, Meredith,’ and gives Callie a kid... and then puts Callie through a windshield. I mean, what the hell is going on? What’s the point? I mean, is there a reason for this? Because if you can think of a reason—any reason at all—why the universe is so screwed up and random and mean, now would be an amazingly good time to tell me because I really need some answers.”

Meredith’s elevator lament was possibly the most profound line of television I have heard. That is the ultimate question, why do bad things happen? In the real world, people get cancer, shot by gunmen, hit by trucks. Being bludgeoned by an icicle is less common, but I suppose that can happen too. The point is, bad things happen, and they don’t make any sense.

There are no answers for Meredith (except that Shonda Rimes says so), and there are even less answers for us as we are not characters in a TV drama. But as we journey through this fourth week of Lent we can cling to the fact that ours is a God who understands pain, fear, and the seeming randomness of life. A God who weeps at his friend’s death, and then raises that friend to life. Sometimes resurrection is tangible, like Lazarus in the tomb. And sometimes it is just a feeling of peace in the midst of crisis. Grace isn’t always an answer, but it is a promise. Thanks be to God.

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