Every Friday we’ll take a break from topical posts and will post some random personal thoughts.
A Cuppa Joe - Random Ramblings from a Fellow Struggler
Last Friday I posted some thoughts on The Hunger Games, a film generating large revenues and no small amount of national discussions. Not having seen it when I posted (it was opening that day) and now having watched it with my family last night, I’m left with some pretty strong impressions.
It’s a disturbing story, hands down. Parents especially will find it hard to digest images of kids being yanked from their homes and forced into do-or-die gladiatorial combat for the entertainment of a futuristic, and decidedly nightmarish, society. (Think 1984 meets Spartacus meets Lord of the Flies and you somewhat get the idea.) Still, themes of decency, sacrifice, and honorable warfare dominate the movie, outweighing the horror which is, to the director’s credit, reasonably toned down. Here are some of the takeaway points I noted while leaving the theater:
Stick with your gifts. The story’s heroine Katniss Everdeen is an accomplished archer, cool headed but lacking in killer instinct. When her sister is summoned to step into the arena, she bravely takes her place, throwing herself into a fight to the death with 23 other kids who, by and large, have few qualms about killing to survive. But strength of character alone, which she oozes, isn’t enough to keep her breathing, so she wisely assesses what she’s good at, stays within her perimeters, and by making the most of her God-given talents she (spoiler alert) comes out ahead.
We could all do worse. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us”, Paul told the Romans (Romans 12:6) So when considering how to get by, much less have impact, I ask myself three things: What’s the desire of my heart, does my gifting match my desire, and is there opportunity for the desire and gift to be fulfilled? A yes to those three confirms my God given strong points. And when I stay within of the bounds of my gifts and calling, I thrive.
Survive without destroying. Katniss never acquires a taste for blood; she only wants to come out alive. Impossible without combat, given that only one contestant in the Game survives. Still, she strives to avoid killing and focuses instead on living. Only when forced to defend a loved one or her own life does she resort to violence, a violence she loathes but realizes is a last resort in the evil environment she’s been hurled into. “If it be possible, as much as lieth within you, live peaceably with all men”, Paul also wrote. (Romans 12:18) When I apply myself to my own work and business, striving to avoid needless combat, the good fruit comes. Then again, I’m grateful Paul qualified his advice with “If it be possible”, recognizing that in this world we’ve been hurled into peace isn’t always an option so, when battle’s a mandate, it can and should be entered into. But only when all other options have been tried.
Transcend the world Peeta, one of two boys understandably smitten with Katniss, decides early in the story that, although forced into the conflict, he refuses to be like the people who put him there. “I won’t become what they want me to be,” he declares, and Katniss is made of the same stuff. Accordingly, the two of them rise above their Darwinian jungle by honorably separating themselves from the spirit and attitudes surrounding them. Midway through the film one wishes they’d simply be transported into a place of safety rather than endure their seemingly impossible situation. Yet the honor, valor and love they display are more inspiring to the viewer than a quick exit could ever be.
“I pray not that you take them from the world”, Jesus prayed to the Father, “but that You keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15) That tells me I’m following Him in hostile territory, and am called to deal with that territory without resorting to the tactics it so often promotes. When I can turn the other cheek and bless without cursing, I must. When a fight is unavoidable, I can’t run. But whichever option is called for, by God’s grace I won’t become what they want me to be. In that vein, I left the theater more committed than ever to the differences Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount, during which He repeated the question “What do ye different?” If I’m not doing God’s work in His way, then what, after all, is the point?
Anyway, those are my thoughts after sitting through an uncomfortable, provocative film. It’s worth a look, to my thinking, provided your stomach’s sturdy and you don’t bring the young kids.
Hope your weekend’s terrific, and blessed. Thanks for being here.