There is something you guys should probably know about me: my dream job is to be a criminal. Not one of those disturbing, serial killer, unresolved psychological issues criminals (those people scare me). But I could be a stealthy criminal, a villainous mastermind, a con man. You know, the more hands off creative type. This is closely related to another fact you should know about me: I’m terrified of prison. And not a healthy, normal preventative fear. No, a bone-deep terror, because I know that if I ever set foot in prison, I’ll die there. Nerdy girls like me do not thrive in those settings.
God’s idea of checks and balances, I’m assuming.
In order to get my crime fix, I watch an inexcusable amount of tv shows about crime and villains. Anything from Law and Order (SVU always) or Criminal Minds to Psych or Bones to Sherlock and Luther (I love my Brits) to Breaking Bad. The more blurred the line between good and bad, between the good guys and the bad guys, the more I love it. I live my life in the gray areas.
So when a friend told me to watch The Brothers Bloom and I saw it was about two con men, I was in. I pushed play and was immediately entranced. Ignore for a moment that I would marry Mark Ruffalo yesterday if he asked me, the writing was pure seduction. Each word an entire painting to be enjoyed. I would quote the entire movie to you if I could. Or rather, if you sat still long enough to let me.
The younger brother, Bloom, is done with the con life. He’s done living out his brother Stephen’s scripts, which he writes “the way dead Russians write novels, with thematic arcs and embedded symbolism.” (Such beautiful writing, no?) But Bloom wants an unwritten life. He wants unexpected experiences, not planned out meetings. He wants to meet unknown people, not his brother’s marks. Bloom wants to live a normal, random life. He wants to experience life, not to be directed.
But he keeps getting dragged back into the con life by his brother. Really, who better to convince a person of the beauty of a con than a man who writes them with the precision of a novelist? After every con, Bloom wants out. He wants to runaway and disappear and live without a plot written out for him. One last con, Stephen says. And as always, Bloom agrees.
I hate feeling as if my life is planned out for me. The idea that it’s all laid out and predetermined fills me with a sense of restlessness. This is only mildly ironic given I’m the cautious sort who should appreciate a well-devised plan. But no, I hate planning. I hate waking up and knowing every detail of what’s going to happen. I hate having every piece of my life managed and mapped out. I want to be able be impulsive (even if I don’t always take advantage of it). I want to be able to go on some random road trip or move across the country without it interfering with some cosmic novel I don’t know the end to. I want to be able to control of my own destiny.
Control. It’s mankind’s greatest sin, I believe; why we had to eat the apple. We needed to know everything, to be aware, to have the power to choose things based on that knowledge. We wanted to control our fate, not leave everything up to God. We couldn’t trust. So we gave in, succumbed to the seduction of temptation. Our eyes were opened, and we were cast out. We were allowed to live the life we wanted, the life we craved. And we’ve been complaining ever since.
My favorite line in The Brothers Bloom is, “There is no such thing as an unwritten life; only a badly written one.” This is said to Bloom by Penelope- the girl he falls for; the girl he wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for Stephen’s con. Because Penelope (love that name, by the way) had figured it out. She had been conned. She had been directed by the brothers. But the story she had been given, the experiences she had been allowed were the most wonderful of her life. She had been able to finally live, to escape her isolation and find love. So she tells Bloom, “We’re gonna live like we’re telling the best story in the whole world.”
I do this thing where I tell God all the things I’m never going to do. I’m never going to a Christian college. I’m never going to live in Portland. I’m never going to live in a place with hot weather. I’m not going to be unmarried at 25. I’m not going to live with my parents. I’m not going to have a job that doesn’t involve my degree. Such sweeping declarations. Each of them made with the sort of stubbornness I’m sure God hears and thinks, “Challenge accepted.” Because over the course of my life, I’ve done everything I promised I would never do.
I’ve lived a life that wasn’t written by me, but for me. I’ve lived a life I didn’t want, but desperately needed. Everything I would have avoided on my own, each experience I wouldn’t have chosen for myself was beautiful, tragic, epic, and unforgettable. My story as I would have written it would have been thoroughly predictable, within my comfort zone, and not as challenging as it could be. Because while I might “be able” to do many things, it’s easier not to. On some level, we will do our best to avoid the things we fear, the things that make us uncomfortable, the things that are hard. And such a story would have been poorly written. Such a story would be missing the grand adventures that can only be devised by someone determined to create the best possible, most amazing, absolutely breathtaking story ever imagined.
God is the master author, a benevolent con man (minus the swindling and crime, of course). He creates entire scripts for us; page after page of experiences, events, relationships, and moments that He crafts specifically for you. And we think we don’t want it or need. We want an unwritten life that we control. But every life, every person is a story. We are chapters and footnotes and indexes carefully put together to create an amazing story only we can live. It was designed for us alone.
We need only to trust God enough to allow Him to direct the story. We need only to have faith that He wants us to be happy, to be fulfilled, to enjoy the world He has placed us in. We need only to endeavor to live each moment to the fullest and not resent that God can write a better story than we can. And we need to realize that we are able to be active participants. We are allowed to experience. We are allowed to become entranced in the beauty of our story, to stand in awe of it, because He gave it only to you.
So live your story like it’s the best story in the entire world. Because it is.
(And go watch The Brothers Bloom! You won’t regret it.)
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