Thursday, January 28, 2010
A Heart for God When It's Hard
I went to see an unusual movie today called "The Book of Eli". Denzel Washington and Gary Oldham lead an interesting, eclectic cast in this dark and violent film. It caught my curiosity because of the reviews and blogger comments on it being a "Christian" film in some respects although it was a very "R" movie. Some friends of mine had seen it and recommended it as well.
I am not interested in writing a movie review but I will say that the film has nicked me, meaning it will stay with me for a while and I want to talk about it a bit. First of all, when a movie gets under my skin and itches until I "scratch" it through contemplation or conversation (my favorite), that's when I know it was a good movie. Generally speaking, I come out of a theater (or turn off my tv/dvd player) and the first thought or words out of my mouth are, "that film could have been so much better - what a disappointment". Currently both film makers and we, the audience, have become so lazy in our expectations that we get what we deserve: Boring films with inane dialogue, tired out devices for humor or romance, obligatory sex and/or violence just to fill the minutes.
So when a film grabs me or, even better, surprises me, I really love to talk about it afterwards.
As I said, I don't want to review the film, I just want to zero in on this one moment that was like a laser of light in the bleakest backdrop I could have ever imagined. In a bombed out cement column (like you might see at a power plant), Denzel Washington's character and a young woman named Solara are hiding out from some very, very bad guys. The young woman cannot read and has never experienced anything but the darkest days of a destroyed world. She has never seen anything grow, never seen a blue sky, never heard music or witnessed the arts, never tasted anything fresh. She watches Denzel reading from a book, his very special book that he has protected at all costs. A book that has led them to being hunted down like animals. She asks him to read some of it to her.
Denzel looks up, closes the book and begins to quote Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me lie in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. They rod and they staff, they comfort me". And then he smiles.
As a believer and a lover of God's word, that moment was transforming for me. "Why", you ask (and thanks for asking). I can't tell you how many times I have heard the 23rd Psalm read or read it myself or quoted it or sung it. It's one of the MOST recognized passages in scripture. But, as I was drawn into the story and the bleak, hopelessness of that post-apocolyptic world, hearing God's word spoken, those words of comfort and hope and peacefulness created an absolute moment of TRUTH. God's word piercing the deepest darkness. The girl yearned to hear more. For the first time, she could glimpse why this book meant so much to him.
I came away thinking about my own walk with God. We have so much, so much to distract us from God. Though "just" a movie, Denzel's character clearly understood the value and importance of a close walk with the Lord and spending time in his word. I thought of the believers in Haiti who are living in the bleakest possible conditions, believers in China where many must share one Bible, in Africa where they could be arrested for their faith without a moment's notice... and I asked myself, "would I have the courage, the strength of faith to proclaim God when its so hard. Would I spend time in the word every day, resting in his truth if everything else was taken from me?
I had a thought tickling me... I knew I had read somewhere these thoughts put on paper much better than I am doing now. I finally remembered it was an e-mail that I read (and saved) which was part of the eulogy for NBC correspondent, David Bloom who died in Iraq in the early days of the war. He was there covering the invasion and, at the age of 39, died in April 2003. Before he left, he seemed to have a premonition that God might have greater plans for him. Following is an e-mail that he wrote to his wife, Melanie, before he left Kuwait City. This e-mail was read at his funeral service:
"You can't begin to fathom - cannot begin to even glimpse the enormity - of the changes I have and am continuing to undergo. God takes you to the depths of your being - until you are at rock bottom - and then, if you turn to him with utter and blind faith, and resolve in your heart and mind to walk only with him and toward him, picks you up by your bootstraps and leads you home. I hope and pray that all my guys get out of this in one piece. But I tell you, Mel, I am at peace. Deeply saddened by the glimpses of death and destruction I have seen, but at peace with my God and with you. I know only that my whole way of looking at life has turned upside down - here I am, supposedly at the peak of professional success, and I could frankly care less. Yes, I'm proud of the good job we've all been doing, but - in the scheme of things - it matters little compared to my relationship with you, and the girls, and Jesus. There is something far beyond my level of human understanding or comprehension going on here, some forging of metal through fire."
"...some forging of metal through fire". My friend, Luci Swindoll, calls it the "Alchemy of the Heart" - taking something corrupt and flawed and passing it through the fire, tempering it until it becomes as gold. The movie for me today was one big illustrated reminder that until I allow God to temper me and draw me fully to himself, I will never be strong enough or courageous enough to have a heart for God when it's really, really hard.