Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I Love You. I Have Always Loved You

Saturday night my fourteen year-old-grandson asked his mom to take him and a friend to see a scary movie. She was worn out from teaching, graduate school, and driving through LA traffic for his water polo meet, so she suggested he ask me. I love spending time with him and felt honored that he was okay with that idea. So, I got to accompany two teenage boys to see A Quiet Place. I went expecting it to be a typical scary movie and it was intense; however, it was also a movie with a well-developed plot, telling the story about a family that worked very hard to survive monsters that had been attacking humans.

In the beginning of the story, the family consists of a dad, a pregnant mom, and three children. The oldest child is a teenage girl who is deaf. the middle child is a boy who is nine or ten and the youngest boy was probably two or three.  The world has been invaded by ugly monsters who are blind, but who have ears that hear everything and attack what they hear. In the opening scene, they are walking from the store in town back to their farm. They did not realize the little one had picked up a toy space ship in the store that made noise. They were walking single file with him in the rear, following his deaf sister. He lagged behind as he began to explore the space ship. All of a sudden, the little guy turned on the space ship and it made loud sounds that drew a monster. The deaf girl couldn't hear the sound and the dad, who was at the front of the line, couldn't get to the son in time to save him from the monster.

The rest of the film is about this family who is not only working hard to survive, but is a family dealing with the tragic loss of the youngest child, each in their own way. The parents had moved the family into their underground root cellar to keep them safer and they communicated through sign language. The dad had developed quite a security system of cameras so he could observe their farm for approaching monsters. Every so often one of the family members does something that accidentally that draws the monsters toward them. As viewers, we could see the enormous guilt that followed the mishaps that put their lives in jeopardy. We could also see the weight of the burden the parents bear in keeping their family safe. Both parents do a great job of reassuring the kids, but they also have to remind them over and over of the dangers they face.

One day the dad decides to take the boy to teach him how to fish with traps. The boy, still traumatized by what happened to his little brother, is terrified and doesn't want to go away from the farm. The daughter pleads with her dad to take her instead, but the dad tells her to stay with her mom and he gets down eye-to-eye with his son and promises to keep him safe. He even takes him to a waterfall where under the safety of its noise they are able to talk to each other. The dad listens humbly to his son and learns a lot about his daughter from him.

The daughter feels guilty for her brother's death and has come to believe her dad blames her for it as well and has concluded he doesn't love her. She is aware that being deaf also brings more risk to her family. The mom gets busy with laundry and the daughter places a few things in her backpack and goes to the place where her littlest brother died. The mom goes into labor and as she brings the laundry down the cellar, she steps on a nail, causing her to drop a picture frame which draws the monster to their farm. She sneaks back to their house and moves from room to room to hide from the monster and to give birth. At the house, she flips on red outside lights to warn her husband that the monster is there and that she needs help.

As the father and the son arrive at the property, the father sees the lights and sends the son to set off fireworks so their noise would draw the monster away from the house, allowing him to get to his wife. The sister sees the fireworks and comes back, finding her little brother hiding in a field. They run to the grain silo to wait for their dad to come get them. Eventually, they connect with him and are making their way back to the house when they come face to face with a monster. The dad tells the kids to go get in the truck and he grabs an ax and tries to attack the monster, but the monster flings him and the ax to the ground. The little boy screams in anguish when his dad is hit, causing the monster to go after the two kids in the truck. The dad manages to stand up and makes eye contact with his daughter and signs to her, “I love you. I have always loved you." He then lets out a blood-curdling scream sacrificing his life for theirs.

I glanced at the two teens with me who both are good kids with good hearts and both of them looked away from the screen and their bodies literally slumped into their chairs. Later they talked about how they wish they would not have killed the dad, because he was a good dad. The family is left to figure out the weaknesses of the monsters to survive.

After I came home, I processed the movie as it felt somewhat personal to me. When I was working with a therapist on my eating disorder, she asked me to draw what the eating disorder looked like to me. I couldn't draw it because it had looked one way when it first began as a poor way of coping with trauma. It evolved, and as it took root it became a self-destructive stronghold in my life.  The description I wrote for the therapist so long ago perfectly described the monsters in the movie. I decided those monsters could represent the sin from which God has always been protecting us. We don't always recognize the depravity of our sin or its destructiveness. Yes, we sometimes rebelliously choose sin over God, but there are times we get simply get careless and just slip into it and before we know it, we are being consumed and destroyed by it.

I didn't wake up one day and decide to have an eating disorder. It began as a way of trying to find control in the midst of the chaotic emotions swirling beneath the surface, but it quickly took over my life. The control, which at first felt good, became uncontrollable and changed the way I viewed myself. It weighed me down with shame so toxic that ugly self-deprecating thoughts continuously ran through my head. In the same way, I have also seen alcohol take over a person and destroy her and her relationships with her children, leaving gaping wounds that will take a long time to heal. I have seen families destroyed by pornography as it took over the life of a spouse and a dad. And I have seen drug addictions that have taken over the user to the point that all he cares about is his next hit.

God has always wanted to protect us. He has always loved us, but the enemy tells us that our sin isn't that bad, that God, is depriving us, and that God doesn't really love us. In recovery circles we hear statements like, "Oh, that is not your child talking, it is the drugs." But the truth is that we all have a bent to do wrong and we use denial and lies to hide shame. As we sink into the miry clay, our character, which is a fluid thing, begins to change and even the most truthful people begin to lie--we lie to "protect" the next hit, to hide what we spend, and to hide the disorders that gives us a false sense of control, to hide the gossip we share so no one will notice the big monster on our back. We lie to try to shape what others think about us, so we don't feel the guilt or the shame over the choices we have made, over the fact that we are losing control of our ability to choose, and the fact that we know we are loving poorly as a result of the strongholds in our lives.

My thoughts that night also went to the ladies I have worked with, many of which didn't have dads and/or moms that worked as hard to provide and protect as the movie parents did. I thought about those who had at some point in their healing journey expressed the deep longing they had burning in their souls to be protected and to be fully known and loved in spite of their wounds, their flaws, their mistakes their needs, and their sin.  And the Lord whispered into my heart, "I have loved you all that way."

It is so true! Since the Fall we have all been struggling at some level with shame that causes us to doubt the love of God. And yet, the Scripture, from beginning to end, points us to Jesus and shows us His great love, which ultimately was demonstrated on the cross. I know at the times that I have pictured Christ on the cross with my sin etched in His body, I have looked up into His face and I have seen the same look on His face that was on the face of the movie dad as he signed his love to his daughter the last time. And that look said as loudly as the signs, "I love you. I have always loved you."  

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!