One of my (admittedly numerous) favorite movies is M. Night Shyamalan’s film “Signs.” I used to show it every fall to my college students, often along with American snacks such as spiced apple cider and butter & salt popcorn. I watched it again with friends Stephanie T and Judy G tonight – with popcorn and enough other snacks to make our dinner but no cider this time. “Signs” has the idea of aliens making crop circles and is a “scary movie” with some fun moments of fear and release – I especially like that release, that at the end I’m not afraid to walk out in the dark – but it isn’t a movie ABOUT aliens. It’s a movie about a man and his family, that just happens to have aliens in it.
After our post-movie chatter ended and my guests left, I was reading an email from “Of First Importance.” Today’s quote was by John Stott and included the line, “The B’ble isn’t about people trying to discover G’d, but about G’d reaching out to find us.” It connected to the film for me, partly the wording of the description (“not about aliens but about a family”) and partly because of the themes in the movie that are a big part of the reason I would show it each year. (It is a great movie to discuss with friends and students.)
What does everything mean? Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) looks to his brother Graham (Mel Gibson) for comfort during the initial wave of panic at the appearance of UFOs in the night sky. Even though Graham has given up on God, he explains to his brother that people can be classified in two groups, those who believe everything is chance and those who believe in something greater. If everything’s just chance, it isn’t really 50/50 because whatever happens you know you’ll be facing it alone, and that leaves you fearful. But if there’s a purpose and director to life, there are no coincidences, and whatever may happen you know you won’t be alone, which leaves you hopeful. For the first time tonight I saw how Merrill was evaluating his beliefs and making the decision to be consistent in his worldview. He believes in miracles because of an earlier experience, so he chooses to be hopeful and then acts on that decision, as later in the movie he reassures Graham’s son & daughter while their fearful father can only prepare a last meal, and then rebukes Graham for his despair and anger at G’d. He has answered the question and lives according to what he believes to be true.
What is life about? I don’t believe everything to be chance. I know I’m not alone and that there are no coincidences.
So when I look at everyday events, do I see and react to the signs of God pursuing, loving, accomplishing his good purposes for and through me? When I face the problems if life, small and large, that crop up, am I annoyed & fearful, or am I hopeful – for glory for the Father here and full free enjoyment of Him here & in the life to come? Can people see and wonder at the hope that I have?
Lately things have been a little rough with some interpersonal issues between some kids at school. I didn’t know how to handle those things when I was a kid; I spent one year being bullied and the next two or three being mostly ignored by my classmates. So there are scars there that make it hard, in myself, to look at these situations with hope and calm determination to resolve them. How can they be worked for good for anyone when I never found a solution myself? etc. That isn’t the whole of my experience nor the ultimate truth that I believe. But it’s got to be a conscious choice each time I think of the situation to remember I am not alone, to choose to release the fear, and to purposely to be hopeful. If I think of my life as a story, I can see how this is an opportunity to be grown in various ways: as a teacher, in my trust in the Father, in my relational IQ,… I’m sure there are many good things the Father can bring out of it to the praise of his glorious grace – many more too beyond my own life, such as in my students, their parents, and my coworkers! My eyes are dim to see these as I move through daily life, but I want to keep my heart and mind locked on the truth: I am not alone, my story is not even about me, it’s about Someone far greater and He has loved me from before I was born, set out good purposes for my life, and given me Himself forever. I needn’t fear failure, shame, or other disaster. I have a living hope, a writer of signs and director of miracles!