While following the Olympics during the past couple of weeks, I often saw a “spoiler alert” online with headlines about sports events already concluded. It advised readers that if they’d not yet seen the event and were planning to watch a later airing, the story to follow would reveal the outcome. Similar disclaimers are often used in television, movie, or book reviews and synopses.
That warning got me to thinking about whether knowing the end of the story up front is desirable or not. I’m usually one of those people who refuses to look at the last page of a novel, while others find that peeking and learning how it ends helps them read with a different perspective.
In our lives, don’t we often wish for a spoiler each day, maybe just a little one? We want to know how a particular experience, day, year, or even the rest of our lives, is going to turn out. Do we win, or do we lose? Will we get married or get a job or strike it rich? Curiosity is human nature. But does preoccupation with knowing the end of our human story really help us enjoy and appreciate the chapter we’re in right now and make for a better next page?
I’ve come to realize that an inordinate focus on an outcome, and spending time designing the next plot point in my life, is not productive. For me this outlining – which at times has included a dialogue with others who haven’t been informed they have a script they are expected to work from! – distracts me from my higher purpose. Predicting and ruminating, picturing and wishing, closes our eyes and our thoughts to the pleasures and treasures and new opportunities always at the ready in this very moment. We tend to miss today by heaping it up with worries and scenarios about tomorrow.
In addition, I’ve discovered that my own predictions for life or a particular situation can be very limiting. They obscure the broader possibilities because they tend to narrow my expectations instead of expand them. I find that my experiences are so much more fulfilling when I’m open to inspiration and fresh ideas than when I brace for trouble or prepare myself for one specific outcome, bad or good.
Yes, keeping a genuine goal before us can certainly promote success. We shouldn’t stop believing in our right objectives. They carry us forward toward achievement. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the textbook of Christian Science, which explains the principle of the healing work Jesus did. In conveying the depth of her own spiritual journey, she wrote of her mission in this way: “The discoverer of Christian Science finds the path less difficult when she has the high goal always before her thoughts, than when she counts her footsteps in endeavoring to reach it. When the destination is desirable, expectation speeds our progress” p. 426).
Our goals are found not in specific human outlining, but in the heart, like an artist’s vision ready to reveal itself on the canvas in a way that makes room for new color, movement, design, and the satisfaction that comes with opening oneself up for inspiration, revelation, new understanding, and surprise. The decision to let willingness to achieve a particular goal instead of willfulness to accomplish it will fuel our intention and pave the way for necessary changes in direction or in approach, one natural step at a time.
That’s not to say that we never get to enjoy a glimpse at what’s coming. God gave us a “divine spoiler” in the Bible’s book of Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (29:11, New International Version). This spiritual perspective and declaration saves us from exhausting human detailing, and still gives us the honest-to-God truth about how things will turn out. God is the true author of our lives. Perhaps the most essential divine spoiler I’ve found is in the first chapter of Genesis, where God says, in essence, “I have made you very good and you shall have dominion over the earth (the limited sense of life)!” God is Love, infinite good, all-powerful wisdom. We can rest in the fact that because we are God’s sons and daughters, our lives must necessarily be full of all that is good, saving, progressive, healing, and loving. This is an established fact, the premise of our story and its central theme.
So here is today’s spoiler alert for you: You are the winner. You are worthy of the prize. End of story.