Posts Tagged ‘hope’

edgeoftomorrow Perhaps it’s the threat of random terror and/or the post-modern lack of confidence that anyone has the answers to anything anymore, but something is stealing our vision and hope of a future—and our films are the popular expression of our general anxiety.

Two of the big summer movies currently in the theaters deal with time travel issues.  The first Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, is a military thriller, but really it is about what it would mean if we could really start all over again every time we mess up badly—and that’s appealing at a certain level, isn’t it!

X-Men: Days of Future Past, delivering the usual ensemble of stars, but focusing on Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), tests the idea of whether going back in time and manipulating historical events can change the future.

Both films play with the threat of total annihilation of the race.  Seems like we are getting more and more films like this, that is, films like the 1950s movies about the invasion of aliens and/or the mutants from atomic wars overrunning the earth, all of which expressed the newly feasible, but very real existential fear of atomic destruction.

Edge of Tomorrowsets up a scenario where a reluctant soldier (Tom Cruise) repeats the same day over and over again, resetting to that day every time he is killed.  When he realizes what has happened to him, he tries to learn from each lethal experience in order to save the world.

Through hundreds of iterations of the same day, he finally figures out what to do and what not to do in order to win the war against the aliens—at which point he has to start the NEW day over again and try again from the beginning to win the girl.

Fortunately, the director and editors of this film spare the audience the boredom of watching the same events happening over and over again, all which would have to be repeated so carefully because even one forgotten detail could result in needing to reset all over again.

That boredom and the tyranny of details when trying to change history were better demonstrated in Stephen King’s recent book 11/22/63: A Novel about a time traveler’s attempt to change history by preventing the assassination of President Kennedy.  Although the time travel and resetting is quite similar, because the novelist has more than two hours to tell his story, the difficulty and tedium of using repetition to get everything right are much more pronounced.  In fact, it proves to be almost impossible.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the better film, primarily because the complexity of the characters plays a larger role in the outcome of the film.  In spite of political, racial, and philosophical oppositions, the key for saving the world becomes hope!  That hope is essential to the survival of humanity rings true, doesn’t it!Xmen

A cousin of mine is a hospital chaplain. He has told me that his main job is to offer people in his care hope, that when a patient loses hope, death becomes more probable.  He says that if he can just help them hope for tomorrow or next week,that they often rally.

Ultimately, time-travel films are terribly inconsistent, sometimes inconsequent, because no cause-and-effect event can be ignored, not even the smallest, without downstream consequences.  That is the great comfort Christians take in being in the hands of the Great I AM.

Our hope rests on the sole First Cause, in the hands of the Beginning and the End, in the Author and the Finisher.  Our hope is not in ourselves or dependent on our tomorrow; our hope is not in learning all we need to learn to achieve perfection or in getting it all right. So Christians can live without that existential fear that lies behind films like these because we have been given true hope.

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope” (Romans 15:13, Phillips).

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Not exactly like our yellow stationwagon, but close.

We have a great family story that has meant a lot over the years because of what it taught us at a very crucial time in our lives.  Would you like to hear it?

Many of you know our story of coming back to the States from Germany in 1979 under less than desirable conditions: no home, no job, no funds, and no understanding why we were back in the States and what we were supposed to do. God, of course, had a great plan for us, but we were in the pain of the moment, and our vision of the future was very short-sighted.

Piece by piece our future path started opening up in front of us.  After a couple of months, I got a one-year temporary teaching position at Oklahoma Christian—which turned into a twenty-four year career. OC was very generous and provided free housing during the summer before the semester started, which meant I could also walk across campus to get to work—all good when your total income that year was going to be $12,000.

About six months before leaving Germany, I had taken an auto loan from our local bank and bought a used Opal stationwagon for our growing family (Emily had just been born the previous October).  As our story goes, we had about two-weeks’ notice, causing our departure from Germany, selling almost everything we owned in order to buy five one-way plane tickets to the States.

Our “new” car was pretty easy to sell, but knowing that we had no money, no income, and not knowing how long we might be in that condition, I asked our local banker to let me keep the proceeds from the sale of our car and continue paying monthly on the car loan.  We had a good history with this bank, so he readily agreed.  That car loan money was all the money we had from April until the end of September—except for a few odd jobs that I was able to pick up.

And now the story begins:  One day, Sherrylee and I went car shopping! Surely you know what a terrifying experience that can be—especially if you have not been living in the States for eight years and you don’t really know how the whole car-selling thing works, and you have almost no money to spend.  By the end of the day, we were exhausted and discouraged, but we stopped at one more big car lot just to see what they had.

And what they had was a leftover “new” car that was over a year old—and it was canary yellow—which explains why it was leftover.  They wanted to get rid of that car so badly that they found a way to sell it to these two ex-missionaries with no income, no credit, and a very small down payment.  I’m sure they popped corks after we left—but in our exhausted state of naiveté, we couldn’t believe that we had just bought a new car! We were so proud of our yellow stationwagon! Only providential care could have made that happen.

We knew what a gift it was, so we washed it, cared for it, and made sure the kids didn’t trash out the inside of the car. 

One day that car—a kind of balm for our wounds– was sitting in the driveway in front of our little house in Edmond, Oklahoma. I came out to find that Benjamin (not quite 3 years old) was sitting on the hood of the car. In his little innocent hands he had a small, sharp tool with which you pick the meat out of pecans.  We’ve always said he was scratching his name into the yellow paint. I don’t know if it was his name or he was just “coloring,” but there he was, scarring, marring our yellow stationwagon—our gift from God!

I learned that day a lesson that has been reinforced many times since: nothing and nobody in this world is perfect—and even things/people who start out perfect are going to get scratched up, damaged, and/or scarred.

It’s like the pain you feel as a parent with your first child’s first wound that leaves a scar.  Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.”

At LST, we just moved into a new building of our own. We invited all our friends to come and see everything, freshly painted, newly decorated—and the night before our Open House, it rained heavily and we found out the roof leaks in two places, one of them dripping into our new main hall!

What must God have felt when Adam and Eve sinned!  Or when His perfect Son was spit on, beaten, and nailed to the cross!

The flawed conditions of this world make pessimists of many who have no hope, but we Christians believe in restoration and reconciliation. We believe in a new heaven and a new earth—a real perfection of creation that cannot be scratched.

So I learned two big lessons that day:  Expecting perfection in this world leads only to pain and disappointment; however, living in a flawed world must not cause despair! We are being guided through these imperfect landscapes to a time and place where we will never be disappointed, never be scarred, and never be scratched.


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