“The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I honestly wanted to wait for the end of the season to write this post. I may write another one when it’s finally through. But I just couldn’t wait any longer to get some of my thoughts down on digital paper. A few months ago I wrote a reflection and review of the Apple TV series, Ted Lasso. That original post is here. As I rather effusively gushed then, I absolutely loved the first season. Now, no, that doesn’t mean I loved every single part of it (the language is pretty excessively bad and, if anything, is worse this season), but the whole idea and theme rang so fundamentally true with the Christian worldview, I found myself quickly forgiving the few parts that didn’t. Well, Ted Lasso is back. And in between then and now it was nominated for a record 20 Emmy’s, most of which I fully suspect will be rightfully awarded to it in a couple of weeks. The show’s sophomore season has not been without some criticism, but at least as far as I am concerned, it has been even better than the first. As we have now crossed the midpoint of the season (and, no, I haven’t watched today’s episode yet), let’s talk about why it’s so good.
Ted Lasso’s second season started with the death of a dog and the arrival of a sports psychiatrist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, whose reserved and straight-laced character begins to immediately provide a foil to Ted’s constant exuberance about everything and everyone. Fortunately, Ted is still the delight that he was in the first season. And the comedy this season is, if anything, even better than before. Personally, the fourth episode, Carol of the Bells, is the hardest I’ve laughed at a TV show…ever.
Throughout this season we have watched as all the characters have developed in positive ways. This growth is all pretty uniformly the result of Ted’s impact on the Richmond Football Club’s organizational culture. While we don’t ever see anything glaringly obvious, it quickly becomes clear as the season has begun that the Ted effect has been powerful. Both the players and the front office are working. The club itself begins the season mired in a string of ties, but even that hasn’t done much to tamper their spirit. Perhaps the two most significant wins so far are that Ted manages to bring back the prima dona from last season, Jamie Tartt, and reconcile him with the rest of the club which has grown past his previously poisonous impact on them, and he ropes the now retired Roy Kent into serving on the coaching staff, which in spite of doing a few other things since retirement is where his heart always was. That particular episode, Rainbow, was a romantic comedy except that the love story was Roy and coaching. His climatic realization that coaching was what he needed to be doing, followed by a dramatic run, drive, walk, limp across town from the broadcast studio to the pitch had me almost rolling off the coach I was laughing so hard.
Along the way of this season’s journey, though, it has become clear that while everyone else is thriving because of Ted, all is not well with everyone. There is one character who is experiencing a growing, gnawing tension that is a threat to the continued operation of the whole thing. That character is Ted. If you’ll remember back to last season, part of what drove Ted to accept a job from 4500 miles from his previous one was that his marriage was on rocky ground. In spite of his love for his wife and son, it becomes clear that they are not going to be able to work out their issues and decide to divorce. For a man who almost pathologically embraces the positive in everything, Ted struggled mightily with working through the pain and loneliness and sense of utter failure this left inside of him. At one point during that first season, Ted experienced a full-on panic attack from the stress of trying to bury all the pain beneath a mountain success and happiness.
Over the course of the first few episodes of this season, it looks at first glance like all is well. Ted is all smiles and even in adversity, everything seems to be working. But the introduction of Dr. Fieldstone to the organization poses an immediate threat to Ted. He is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of her being there even though she is obviously tremendous at her job, and is helping many of the players a great deal. His past experience with therapists isn’t good, and the very presence of her in the organization is a threat to the personal stability he feels like he has achieved with the pain of his recent past. At first, she is a bit put off by him, but his gregarious kindness and graciousness eventually wins her over and they began a working relationship that while not perfect, is…well…working.
The trouble is, though, the pain Ted has inside isn’t going to stay buried forever. No pain ever does. Pain buried does not stay dormant like well-protected nuclear waste. Instead, it is a seed. It may be a whole field of seeds. And while we may plant those seeds far deeper than would seem to give them even the chance at growing, seeds do what seeds do. At first the sprouts that begin to come up frighten us. We thought we had them sufficiently buried such that they weren’t going to be making any more appearances in our lives. We quickly mow them down and keep right on rolling. But then more sprouts poke their heads above the ground. Then more. Then more. And eventually we find ourselves in a place where we are spending so much time mowing them all back down that we can’t give the attention we need to be giving to the other things we have going on in our lives. Our work suffers. Our relationships become tense. Normal, easy tasks become far more difficult than they should be. We snap at people when we don’t mean to. We have trouble staying focused on our present circumstances. In short, we find ourselves losing the war against our pain because we never actually dealt with and defeated it; we just buried it.
There are many story threads yet to be woven into the wonderful tapestry of the series in the remaining six episodes of this season, but I suspect strongly that one of them is going to be Ted getting help from Dr. Fieldstone to work through his pain rather than hiding from it.
And as I’ve reflected on this over the past few weeks, the theme the show is developing this season is that sometimes even the best people need help. There are some struggles we face that are too big for us to overcome on our own. We need help. It may be that this help can come from some wise friends who have the privilege to speak truth into our lives. It could be that we need professional help from a licensed therapist. There is certainly no shame in that and often a great deal of wisdom. But even more than this, we need the help of the God who knows us even better than we know ourselves.
Fortunately, as David reminds us here in this broader reflection on God’s willingness to intercede on behalf of the righteous when they are struggling, He is near the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. If you are broken, it is easy to begin to buy the line that you’re just no good to anyone anymore. Let me tell you with all the confidence in the world that nothing could be further from the truth. If you are broken by life and sin and all the other challenges that come from an equally broken world, know well that you are just the kind of person whom God longs to draw near and love back to wholeness. It’s okay to be not okay. But it’s not okay to try and ignore or deny that and keep moving forward as if you were fine. You’re setting yourself and everyone around you up for your Humpty-Dumpty act to result in a great fall, leaving you even more broken and them trying to pick up the slack from it. If you need help, get help. It won’t immediately make you any less broken, but it will mean you are committed to not staying so broken, and that’s a good place to be. And as you reach for that help, start with the One who can make you fully whole. You’ll be glad you did.