Sam and I did something last week that we’ve rarely ever done. We went to the movies to see a film on its opening night. The film was the much talked about One Day. And we weren’t disappointed.
One Day is David Nicholls’ romantic tale of Dexter and Emma – a boy and girl who graduate from Edinburgh University on 15th July 1988. The movie, like the best-selling book (which I read just a few weeks ago on the beach) visits them on the same date every year for the next twenty or so years. Full of hope and expectation that they can change the world, they struggle with shallow relationships, failing careers, and frustrated expectations, until they finally reach some kind of peace and sense of purpose, partly through the eventual realisation that it’s their friendship that’s the best basis for love and contentment, which they briefly share before tragedy hits.
I found myself strangely drawn to this story because I lived through this era and have been greatly shaped by it. Sam and I met at a British university just a year before the story begins, but unlike Dex and Em we didn’t wait 18 years to tie the knot; we were married within three. As well as finding each other at university we both found or firmed up faith in Jesus Christ, so we chose to settle down whilst young and within another three years had started a family. However many others of our One Day Generation – Generation X – were using career, social or political causes, alcohol, drugs and relationships in the quest for happiness and purpose. That was how many of my contemporaries lived during these years and I don’t condemn them for it. They were searching for meaning. Dex sums this up brilliantly in a letter to Em: ‘I know you feel a little bit lost right now about what to do with your life, a bit rudderless and oarless and aimless but that’s okay because we’re all meant to feel like at at 24. In fact our whole generation is like that. I read an article about it, it’s because we never fought in a war or watched too much television or something.’ That’s why Tiffanie Darke, writing about One Day in the weekend’s Sunday Times said that in finishing the book ‘I hurled it on the floor, wishing I had written it myself. It seemed so obvious, so now, so me – I could have been either of the characters and so could all of my friends.’
Darke’s analysis of the book and movie, and about the present One Day Generation of now early 40-somethings (of which I am part) is really insightful. She writes: ‘It is the melancholy and romance of the story that clinch it for the generation that is now having to grapple with meaning – what, we ask ourselves as we career towards our midlife crises, is it all for? As Dex and Em hit midlife, Nicholls conclusions are reassuring: essentially life is about the moment in which you love, one day at a time. If you miss it, you miss out on the happiness we had such great expectations for at university.’
I agree. We must love. And we must make the most of each day, for we never know what’s coming round the corner. That’s why I have no regrets of marrying young. Or of not dabbling with some of the things that Dex and Em and many of my contemporaries did in the eighties, nineties and noughties. Or of being a follower of Jesus throughout the time-frame of One Day. Which is why I would actually want to go further than Nicholls does in his brilliantly written book. You see when careers fail, money runs out and the love of your life leaves you or, God forbid, dies, is really the best we can say: just make the most of what you have while you can? Surely not! Deeper meaning is needed, and I have found none better than in the relationship with God through Jesus Christ which had sustained me not just when things are going well, but during the hard times. That friendship, unlike even the very best human relationship will last not just the life of this Generation Xer, but into eternity.
That’s why I applaud the love and friendship that Dex and Em come to share but I also realise that discovering the love and friendship of God, through faith in Jesus Christ is something of even greater value and of eternal significance. From the book and movie there’s no evidence that Dex and Em find that kind of friendship with God and yet that is the relationship the One Day Generation truly need to discover to make sense of life. I fear that today the message of Christ is often so poorly presented, or so easily drowned out by competing agendas, that many of the One Day Generation will go to their graves having missed out on the most significant friendship of all. Let us pray and work that my fears are not realised.