I love watching movies.
Comedies yes, please. Send me out of my chair onto the floor–stomach throbbing, eyes drenched with tears, unable to breathe laughing so hard the tiniest bit of pee comes out.
Horror movies…ok, I’ll go for it. But the guts and blood-in my opinion-don’t always make the best scary movies.
Romantic/Chick flicks, sure, who doesn’t love cheesy, unrealistic romance with perfect one-liners and those moments when the sensitive men and women in the audience tilt their head slightly to the left, gasp a short breath, and mutter in perfect unison: “Awwwwwww!”
But my favorites: Thrillers, action, suspense (with a touch of comic relief), on the edge of your seat, can’t wait to see what’s next, always flirting with the line of believable and out of this world. I love the movies with twisted plots, crooked characters, and pulsating music. The ones where you have to beat the characters at their own game–figure out everything before that final scene when the pieces are unscrambled, decoded, and glued into place. Love it.
I think I can get slightly obnoxious when I watch movies. I talk. Sorry, it’s not a lot, but I do. I verbally process what’s happening, where characters begin to change–basically playing Sherlock Holmes until I figure it out. And, not to brag, I usually am pretty darn close, if not right. Don’t worry, I don’t blurt out what I think is going to happen. I just sit and sort of mumble half-finished sentences then slide back into my chair.
But one thing that can kill a movie faster than me talking…Credibility. For a couple of hours I want to actually believe this is a true story. The second a thriller crosses the line and becomes outlandish–I’m over it. The moment characters become impossible to relate–they fail to communicate authenticity. It infuriates me. I feel betrayed, cheated, mocked–as if the makers of the movie intended to make me feel stupid.
Surprisingly, or not, I’m the same way at church services. Now, I know ‘worship’ services are not meant to entertain me. I know. But, for an hour or so when I hear stories about a left-handed judge killing a fat king with a sword and throwing out dirty “that’s what she said” lines, or a mama’s boy trick his blind and death-bed-ridden father into giving him everything his older brother deserves, or a man selling everything he has so he can buy a single pearl…when I hear these stories, I want to believe them.
For one reason or another, I’ve noticed congregations get stuck on a singular idea. Maybe, it’s the pastors who are stuck–after all, they are the ones in front telling the same storyline over and over. They are the ones pushing this idea: Happy Endings.
Isn’t that what chick-flicks are all about? Don’t comedies leave you with warm fuzzies? Don’t all sermons contain something resembling…”Our present trials and sufferings now will not match the glory in heaven. Life may be hard now–but heaven is our true home. Jesus came to earth to die so we can live forever with him.”
Before I start sounding too much like a heretic… let me first say I’m not saying these statements are false. I do believe they are true, that heaven is a wonderful existence where the reign of God is forever making all things new. And I do believe in the saving sacrifice of Christ on the cross. These messages are not false. They are simply not enough.
It’s like we’re trying to teach 3rd graders the Alphabet–again. They know it already. Now teach them to spell words and build sentences that can create stories.
Don’t always end with heaven–I’m still living on this earth. Thriller movies leave you paranoid, frustrated, and running scenarios through your head long after you leave the theatre. The Bible is not a Happy Ending storybook. This book has stories that are gruesome, gory, full of rape, tormented souls, and ridiculous people. It’s troubling and terrifying.
There’s a time and a place for happy endings. But the Gospel is not that place. It’s about beginnings. New beginnings, God’s beginnings. It’s about the blind receiving sight. The dead raised to life. The naked being clothed. In the middle of our worst moments grace shines through–and shows us that we are loved now, not just a foretelling of what and who we will be someday. Grace happens now. Mercy happens everyday. Love reigns over hate. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Always. I’m not opposed to happy endings. Just, please, don’t skip over the entire story just to find one.