We Are All Luke Skywalker

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…sunset-luke

…there was an aspiring young man named Luke. Luke didn’t know it, but he lived a very sheltered existence. His family kept him close, his farm kept him fed, and a silent warrior in hiding kept him safe. Amidst this bounty of provision, unfortunately, Luke managed to indulge the most dangerous feeling in human existence, he became bored.  Yet in his boredom, he discovered a valiant dream: He wanted to become a pilot and fly away to grand adventures and noble deeds. Little did Luke know that the fulfillment of his dream was about to come literally crashing into his world…

Luke Skywalker has gotten a bit of a bad rap over time. Since the release of The Force Awakens, young Luke has become the butt of several memes and an object of considerable derision. He whines about doing his chores, he’s usually the last to understand what’s going on, and even though his life’s dream is to leave home to do something great, when the opportunity is handed to him by a wise sage and friend, he makes excuses and wimps out. Doesn’t much seem like hero material, right?

Actually, I’d say it’s exactly the stuff a hero is made of.  Young Luke is sheltered, yes, but he’s not weak. He has an idealistic vision of what it means to do great things, without the experience of ever enduring more than mild resistance. He knows there is a war and that the Empire is evil, but it’s not until his family and farm are cruelly destroyed that he truly understands what war and evil are.  He decides to become a guardian of peace and justice in the galaxy before he ever encounters more than a tiny fraction of the citizens he’s swearing to protect. He’s naive, yes, but far from stupid.

sw-sibsIt doesn’t help, either, that Luke’s as-yet-unknown sister is the epitome of a hero fully realized. Much is made of the fact that, while he’s whining about going to Tosche Station for power converters,  she manages to endure watching the destruction of her home planet with only the slightest hiccup…but then Leia was raised in the heart of the conflict and has seen the war up close her whole life. She knows what’s at stake and how to fight and rebel with power and purpose; Luke only knows what he imagines from the scuttlebutt he can pick up in town. It’s a completely different set of equipping, and Luke has a great deal of catching up to do…but he does it.

The recent political events in my country and community have made me realize that we are all Luke Skywalker at some point. For myself, I have long resolved to take a stand for racial equality, but it wasn’t until I saw 13th last Monday that I began to see how deeply ingrained the problem is in the system I blithely navigate daily, how very much people of color have suffered and are suffering now beyond my borders of experience.  And that’s just one aspect of the conflict.  Human trafficking, labor abuses, political corruption, sexism…the Empire’s reach goes on and on and the more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing. I am Luke. I intend and envision far more than I understand or affect.

If you’ve ever had a plan or a dream that was bigger than you are, you’ve been Luke Skywalker.

If you’ve ever backed away from an opportunity out of fear or a sense of obligation, you’ve been Luke Skywalker.

If you’ve ever missed an opportunity because you were occupied with shopping or entertainment, you’ve been Luke Skywalker.

If you’ve ever believed you understood an issue without having an in-depth conversation with a friend who is directly affected by it, you’ve been Luke Skywalker.

And if you’ve ever suffered or been shocked by the truth of a conflict, yet still took up arms and stood in defense of others anyway, you’ve been Luke Skywalker.

The point is not to condemn ourselves for our likeness to Luke, nor to elevate others in an unrealistic comparison to our Leias. The point is to see ourselves humbly and authentically, then to get wiser and stronger as we take our place in the fight. It will NOT be what we’ve imagined or expected, and we will be challenged to quit at every turn.

But it will make a GREAT story.

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Cap vs. Thor: A Lesson in Epics

When Marvel first dreamed of bringing their vast Avengers / Phase I scheme to the big screen, they had two rather formidable obstacles in their way, namely Captain America and Thor.

In the beloved comics, both men not only are rooted in times long past, but are so squeaky clean as to be unrelatable (the same problem that recent adaptations of Superman faced, with varying degrees of success).  Blonde, beautiful, and beefcake-y, these mythic giants are possessed of an ethos that is so pure, so lofty that we may aspire to it but never fully expect to achieve it.

Eight years and billions of dollars later, we are in the dawn of Phase 3 with several more installations to come (not to mention an undetermined number of future phases!) and no ceiling for success in sight.  As for the “problem” of Cap and Thor, it would seem the Marvel geniuses solved it with aplomb.  The characters have enjoyed approximately equal success with one another both in the box office and in fan response, and are just as established and beloved as anchor members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s Avengers as their original print counterparts.

Yet I personally continue to be far less satisfied with the Thor adaptations than with Cap’s, and it wasn’t until the credits rolled for 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier that I could fully articulate why:

Thor makes me root for him to overcome and be better, as every standard hero should. 
Captain America makes me want to make myself better.

This is not to disparage Thor as a character, nor his value in the Marvel machine.  He is a perfectly likable protagonist and follows the hero’s journey structure well.  An incorruptible paragon of virtue, he never shies away from conflict or personal sacrifice in order to protect the realms and loves of his life.  He was also brilliantly set up by Joss Whedon as the only true match / neutralizer for Hulk, a major feat and pivotal role.

gifHe’s just so distractableThe big mistake they made in adapting Thor’s story was overemphasizing his romantic affections (even going so far as to create an insulting love triangle in Thor: The Dark World that only served to diminish Lady Sif and make Thor wishy-washy).  In truth, Thor’s weaknesses have only ever been arrogance and, of course, Loki.  (Thank God for Tom Hiddleston, the clear anchor of Thor’s whole franchise and without whom, Thor might devolve into an inconsistent, incoherent action figure.)

Meanwhile, Captain America is so firmly grounded in honor and truth that his greatest weakness is not having enough of himself to go around – the fact that he is, actually, mortal.  Yet when I look at Cap, I do not see an impossible standard.  I see who I wish I were, who I want to become.

CA gifCap’s heroics aren’t limited to combat and shield-wielding and running thirteen miles in thirty minutes (although those are all supremely fun to watch).  He also protects the innocent and confronts injustice and takes care of old ladies and throws himself between his team and harm.  Most of all, he is always the one who says, in the midst of the most horrific and lonely and hurtful of circumstances, “I’m not leaving you!”

This inevitably reminds me of Someone else I studied this weekend, One who took the worst I had to offer and still threw Himself between me and certain death.  And after He did so, He assured me that I can accomplish even greater feats when I allow myself to believe and try.

Thor shows me who I am.  Cap shows me who I want to be.  Lord, help my unbelief!

Daredevil: a redemption story

At the risk of losing all of my fangirl street cred, I have to make an important confession: I did not hate the 2003 Daredevil movie.  DD 2003The script was weak, granted, and it struggled with tone and motivation (Am I an action movie?  A thriller?  A romance?  Which one will make the most money?).  But the cast was – brace yourself – quite good considering what they had to work with.  Ben Affleck was not the ideal choice, but he was more a victim of  trend than anything (this was, after all, the season of Bennifer – yuck).  Jon Favreau made an excellent Foggy Nelson, and Colin Farrell gave me nightmares as Bullseye. Most of all, this incarnation gave us the gift of Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin in a brilliant turn of blind casting (get it?).  I’m not saying Samuel L. Jackson owes Nick Fury to him exactly, but MCD definitely opened the door. The new series, which debuted on April 10th and is available for binge-watching life-consumption responsible streaming now, is an excellent step in a new direction and it honors the tone of the print character perfectly.  In a risky move, the show marks a departure from Marvel’s formula here by incorporating few to zero special effects; the action is all hand-to-hand, brutally visceral, and difficult to watch yet impossible to turn away from. I love it. There are only two evident weaknesses in Marvel’s armor, and Daredevil brings both of them to light: 1.  S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G The first four or five episodes of season one are amazing, with a few scenes and turns that are already becoming icons in the entertainment industry.  Episodes twelve and thirteen are suitably epic, neatly capping the series and setting the stage for many misadventures to come. In the middle, though…meh.  Part of it may be due to the nature of binge-watching itself; anyone who has devoted a weekend (or even more intensely, a mere day) to the consumption of a series knows, we get a little sluggish in the middle.  We get snacky or have to go to the bathroom, and sometimes maybe we don’t go to the trouble of pausing the show; we just turn it up a little as we go.  Maybe we nod off and miss a few lines, and it doesn’t feel worth backtracking to catch up.  In any case, thirteen hours of solid viewing takes a lot of commitment, and maybe we are missing some key elements of the production in the process. bingewatch It is also likely, however, that the traditional thirteen-episode season structure has become too constricting.  If show runners are required to fill thirteen hours with a story that could be told in ten, the inevitable result is redundant conversations, recycled fight scenes, and repetitive or thinly layered flashbacks (remember season three of Lost?  No one wants that.) Marvel is the pioneer of the universe-launching tent pole project.  Maybe now they can pioneer the however-many-episodes-it-takes-to-tell-the-story-and-no-more-no-less TV season? 2.  Girl Trouble Let’s have a look at the Daredevil character posters, shall we? DD 2015 Do you see the pattern?  Why is it (and I am genuinely asking here) that each of the male characters is facing me directly with grim determination, while the women are looking away?  Okay, so Claire Temple (played with refreshing badassery by Rosario Dawson) has a story line entirely linked to Matt’s so far, but she exhibits a good amount of internal conflict that could easily have made a compelling face-forward poster.  Plus, if she is who we think she is, her significance will only grow; why not let her demonstrate the same ferocity as the boys? Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is a bit more problematic.  In fact, her ambiguous gaze in an unspecified direction is pretty well appropriate for how her character plays out on the show.  It feels as though the writers wanted her to be an atypical strong female character so badly that they gave her too many story lines (all completely and inconsistently hanging on every male character in the show), thereby inadvertently creating a typical, mostly weak female character.   If hers were the only poster  looking away from the audience, it would have been fitting. (Side rant: Marvel has done an uneven job of representing women so far in the cinematic universe. Black Widow’s portrayal has varied wildly in the movies, depending on the director in charge of her. Gamora began Guardians of the Galaxy as a strong figure and the best fighter of them all, but by the end she was reduced to butt shots and squirming helplessly on the sidelines while the boys did all the important work.  And don’t even get me started on Lady Sif, Thor’s formidable fighting companion who was inexplicably and unforgivably reduced in The Dark World to gazing longingly Thor’s way as he pined for the milquetoast at best Jane Foster.  Ugh.) Despite its weaknesses, Daredevil the series has officially successfully redeemed the character known as The Man Without Fear for the conceivable future.  Here’s hoping we can forgive the mistakes of the past, and let Ben off the hook for Batman vs. Superman (because if DC can’t make that story awesome, it will not be his fault).

dd batman

The Book says Wherein Thou judgest another, Thou condemnest Thyself. -Matt Murdoch

superpower of choice

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. -J.K. Rowling

Comic-Con International is coming up this week and I am irrationally, inordinately, ridiculously SUPER-pumped for it…especially for some one who’s not even going.

I don’t know how it is that I’ve never been.  Comic-Con is a shining beacon of and for nerdom around the world. Teeming masses of fans, friends, artists, cosplay exhibitionists, geeks, gamers, and not a few of the just-curious descend upon San Diego every year to get the scoop on what’s coming up in all things story-related or comics-inspired.

It used to be overlooked at best and derided at worst twenty years ago; now a Comic-Con panel is THE place to unveil any project that wants to be cool (or at least, wants to make tons of money).  As with any gathering of thousands united around a single cause or idea, it definitely attracts its fair share of nutcases and extremists, but at heart Comic-Con is a giant, fearless celebration of imagination.

I LOVE IT.

I keep thinking to myself, I wonder what Joss Whedon is doing right now?! – because you just know there’s something awesome on deck for the Avengers panel.  I also wonder how many of the attendees are rushing around in a tizzie trying to get their costumes together, how the convention center staff feels about it (anticipation or dread?), and how Zack Snyder can sleep after choosing to enter no presentation at all for Superman vs. Batman.  I am mystified by the games arena (haven’t played a video game regularly since Q*bert) and in awe of the vast array of panels open to the public.  As you can easily surmise, attending Comic-Con someday, somehow is way up there on my bucket list.

Naturally, all of this has me contemplating superhero stories yet again, and how they have grown so rapidly in resonance over the last decade or two.  When I was in high school, fanboys were fodder for bullies and snark, and fangirls were rare, mysterious creatures on par with unicorns.  Now, nearly everyone in the general population of America has a favorite superhero, and every personality quiz will at some point ask what super power you would choose if you could.  We have absorbed the stories (if not yet the fanboys) into mainstream culture and filter many of our own stories through their lens.

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to assess why super powers are so appealing; the answer is all in the origin stories.  A young, bullied nerd becomes an agile, cool, smart-mouthed defender of the defenseless.  A mega-rich, genius inventor of weapons is humbled and dons his armor to end war instead of equip it.  Two orphans – each alone in precise and excruciating ways – derive purpose and power in the very sources of their alienation; one finds the human connection that he craves, the other the isolation that soothes his scars.  It’s easy to find ourselves and fuel our ambitions in their narratives.

In this, the “real” world, I have decided that there is only one visible super power, and every human being on earth has been equipped with it from the first day they entered the atmosphere.  It is the power of Choice.

Choice is everything.  It determines the quality of my every day and the direction of my journey.  It gives me the power to soar over my circumstances or be crushed beneath them, to overpower resistance or be driven by it, to join the battle with the rest of the called or shrink and hide and lose both the struggle and the victory.

Choice determines the course of my adventures and whether they will even BE adventures, or merely an accidental series of unappreciated moments carelessly toppling over each other.

As with any super power, Choice can be used for good or for evil.  It can be mutated to generate toxicity in the form of Judgmentalism, which is the choice to condemn the way others use their power.  The only thing it can’t do is be eliminated, for even doing nothing is itself an act of Choice.

Choice is the greatest power in the world; all others are merely its fruit.

blue

blue-heart-3-300x225

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…”
-Charlie Brown

I hate to admit this, but in the past, I have written off this bewildered confession as evidence of weak character on good old Charlie Brown’s part.  How can anyone not be happy at Christmas?  There are lights and parties and movies and treats and friends and snow and presents…  Why, you couldn’t escape Christmas cheer if you tried, I’d have thought.  Clearly, this was just a means to a story – almost an unbelievable stretch, to be honest – and our protagonist would get over himself in the end.

Cut to me sitting in the living room just last night.  It was a perfect Christmas moment.  I was quietly basking in the glow of the Christmas lights and the fireplace.  My family had just bid farewell to the last of about twenty-five good friends and relatives who had attended our Christmas Open House.  Candles were burning, my tummy was full of homemade treats, and the house had settled into an almost poetic stillness.  It was even snowing outside, a particularly rare gift in this region.  All was right with the world.

At least, it should have been.  Yet even in the beauty and tranquility all around me, I could feel nothing at all.  I wasn’t sad.  I wasn’t lonely or stressed out or fearful.  I just could not connect with my surroundings and all that they should have imparted.  I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…  I get it now.

Observing the media during the Christmas season (which they cheerfully insist begins in August), we get a pretty good picture of how we should be.  The grocer’s commercial assumes our typical families will be frolicking about the kitchen together.  Morning radio shows inform us of which toys and electronics are every happy kid’s must-haves.  Jewelers’ billboards demonstrate the ideal couple’s celebration, which is backlit by the frosty glow of a skating pond and featuring a diamond no smaller than your average beagle.  These are the messages we receive.

It is no doubt due to all of this helpful guidance that Christmas has a stereotype of inciting depression.  For instance, my family’s baking projects may involve dancing, but most likely in an effort to extinguish spontaneously combusting butter, or to peel the youngest child from the refrigerator’s ledge.  My divorce was final years ago (probably due to a glaring lack of ice) and the economy has made a mockery of must-haves for anyone.  It becomes easy to wilt under an inadvertent message of inadequacy and failure.

Thankfully, Isaiah 42:3 tells me: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”  I don’t know for certain yet whether the root of my blues is circumstantial, psychological, or biological, but I know this: God will not let me be snuffed out completely.  Above all things, Christmas is my reminder that God keeps His promises.  I know that He remembers me, and that He will preserve me.

My new church has a tradition that I think is very cool.  In the middle of December, they hold a Blue Christmas service designed to address this phenomenon.  It is structured around dealing with the pressures and feelings of loss that are so common this time of year.  Basically, it gives us an organized setting in which we have permission to feel whatever we need to feel, and to receive grace and prayer for it.  I will be attending with a sense of profound gratitude.

If you are among the blue this season, I would like to encourage you to find a similar outlet if you can.  You are not alone, nor are you defective.  You have a good reason for feeling – or not – this way.  I pray that you may find resolution and relief, and that your flame will be rekindled.

If you are not one of us, I implore you to be kind.  We will try not to cry all over your party clothes.

originally posted 12/13/10

quail

The scene: A dark, too quiet night in the bowels of some remote location.

The character:  A beautiful but foolish all-American young person.

The plot: S/he has come here with a group of friends to let off steam and maybe even get lucky, when suddenly (but only after receiving numerous warnings from the Internet, their travel agent, a grizzled but sage groundskeeper, and the groundskeeper’s faithful cocker spaniel), they are separated.  Each is now in a severe state of duress as they search for one another in all of the most logical places which naturally include the basement, abandoned boat house, topiary maze, and tool shed full of rusty but still sharp implements of construction or death.

The viewers:  We tend to fall into one of two categories.  Either we’re clutching the nearest pliable object – even if it is another person’s unsuspecting quadricep – and intoning futile bits of wisdom to the character (such as “Don’t go in there you MORON!”), or we are on the edge of our seats, gleefully egging them on to their gruesome but well earned doom.

And don’t we all say the same thing in these moments?  Something along the lines of, “Who in their right mind would ever really do that?”  We are so sophisticated as observers of the journey that we almost always end up losing respect or even sympathy for the characters.  They made a series of obviously poor choices to get themselves into such peril.  When it comes down to it, don’t they deserve what they get?

Honestly, I hope the real life answer is no, because I am here to confess that I make a lot of boneheaded moves when I am in the grip of fear.  Okay, it’s typically not as extreme as your average Friday the 13th gore fest, but movies are just exaggerated versions of our own stories, right?  I’ll even take it a step further: Not only do I often respond foolishly to my fears and foils, but sometimes I make the same mistakes more than once Picture that in Saw XXVII or whatever we’re up to now; the audience would be throwing real live tomatoes at that character!

Here, in ascending order, are some of the things that go bump in the nights of my soul and the stupid responses I make:

5.  Scorpions – No really.  I can’t even look at them.  They’re so…crunchy-looking and lethal.  They are the embodiment of evil to me.  Gross.
Healthy response: Study them, learn about them, realize that I live hundreds of miles from their nearest ideal climate, so they pose no true threat to me.
My response:  Cringe and gag and refuse to approach their tiny exhibit at the zoo such that even my eight-year-old mocks my revulsion.

4.  Fatal illnesses, the more obscure, the scarier – It’s called hypochondria, and it’s a real thing, okay?  Mine is a mild form, but people still seem to find it comical to listen to me when I or one of my girls get sick.
Healthy response: Stay calm, observe or at most chart their symptoms so I will have data to share with the pediatrician should it become worse.
My response:  Ask them a dozen animated questions about everything from how they feel to how long that hangnail has been there, then hit the Internet for medical info and affirmation only to find – surprise! – a bevy of horror stories and endless possible diagnoses, scouring them until I am finally certain that we all have either this year’s cold virus or Scarlet Fever or terminal cancer.

not an effective technique

3.  Bad news – It doesn’t matter what kind: financial, political, death in the family…  They all bear the same weight on my scale of frightful forces.
Healthy response:  Take a deep breath and face it by gathering all of the facts, then formulating the best strategy for getting through whatever it is.
My response: Avoid, evade, and elude.  Maybe if I remain ignorant of it, it won’t be real.  Of course, that’s the equivalent of hiding under something and trying to disappear, thereby only making myself an unmoving target for the monster on the loose, but try telling me that when the phone rings unexpectedly.

2.  Irrelevance, obscurity, basically having no impact on the world or my piece of it – In the epic words of Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings, I fear “a cage…To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire” (J.R.R. Tolkein).
Healthy response: Move, act, risk, follow my dreams wherever they lead me, tell a better story with my life and pursuits.
My response: Fret about it in my journal, then divert myself via facebook, TV, or movies…basically other people’s stories.

1.  Being disposable – My dad left me when I was a small child for another family, my husband left me when our children were small for another woman.  It’s easy to infer a pattern, common denominator, or root cause there.
Healthy response: Spend time daily with God being affirmed and reminded of His love, promises, and sacrifices for me.  When I am bathed in the Word, I could never believe anything but that He made me completely unique to fill an irreplaceable role in His heart.
My response:  Get distracted by busyness and performing, which lead to comparison, which leads to judgment of myself or others, which leads to depression and believing that my worst fear is true.  So basically, I walk alone into the dark, foreboding room and right into the arms of the killer.

I’m getting better, I hope.  Self-awareness is a vital first step, and I have a great family wonderful friends to help me and hold me accountable and keep me out of the basement…when I don’t let myself get senselessly separated from them, of course.

 

blue like don

About once a month, I treat myself to a little something I like to call No-Hat Day.  No-Hat Day is when I temporarily cast off all the roles I try to fill in my life and do something that is purely me in the moment.  For a few hours, I’m neither doting mother nor dutiful daughter, boss nor subordinate, seeker nor sought; I can just be It’s a self-prescribed therapy, I suppose, and I love it.

Yesterday was my most recent No-Hat Day, and it will probably surprise no one to learn that I spent the time in a movie theater.  This was no casual jaunt to the cinema for the diversion of the day, however.  Instead, I got up early and traveled 45 minutes in the soaking rain (perfect) in order to fulfill a three-year-old dream: I finally got to see Blue Like Jazz.

Yes, I know it’s not as hotly anticipated  as, say, The Dark Knight Rises or maybe even Madagascar 3, but I have a deep emotional connection to this movie.  You see, Donald Miller (author of the book whence the movie gets its name) is a close, personal friend of mine.  At least, it has felt that way ever since he led our Sunday School class several years ago via the Blue Like Jazz audio book.  I forged some of my best friendships in that class during a very difficult time in my life.  While my heart churned with all the grief and darkness of divorce, our class conversations plumbed the spiritual depths of such heady topics as community, worship, and penguin sex.  It was just the tonic I needed, and I expected no less from the movie.

That’s not to say I went into it blind to all possibility of fault.  I am a movie fiend to the core, and I have been burned by films that I wanted to be great.  Actually, Donald Miller himself raised my standards for what makes good film by introducing me to the works of Robert McKee, Blake Snyder, and Steven Pressfield.  So I am not only capable of noticing flaws; I can be quite obsessive when I perceive them.

In that vein, I did notice that Act I felt a bit rushed.  I wanted to be more invested in Don’s relationships at home before he left, and I would have liked a more detailed transition for him than simply to drive away from church and end up at college with cases and boxes magically in tow.  I was also ready for more in the bookstore debate that Don attended – more intellectual substance to the arguments and fewer off-the-cuff remarks about feelings.  I know that BLJ the book spends time on the sense of awe that seems to transcend realism, but the topic seemed out of place in a public debate.  These blips were superficial, though, and didn’t detract from the story much.

However, to my acute dismay, I found BLJ guilty of my greatest cinematic pet peeve: sunny rain.  I hate it when there is a moment in the story that is clearly supposed to take place in near-monsoon levels of precipitation and you can totally tell that the sun was shining when they shot it.  It’s seeing the man behind the curtain.  I know it’s unavoidable sometimes, and they try to cover it up with special effects, but it breaks my engagement from the story because I can’t help but see the rain machine just outside of the shot.  Instead of feeling the sadness or turmoil of the moment that the rain is supposed to represent, I have to try to feel it.  Of course that’s a personal issue, and probably reveals more about flaws in me than in the movie.

Beyond that, I have nothing but praise.

My favorite character was Lauren.  Every good story has a counterpart who will challenge the protagonist by exposing or contradicting his point of view, and Lauren was the perfect counterpart to Don, the Han Solo to his Luke Skywalker.  She also embodied perfectly the ironic tension of church meets anti-church. In the same scene wherein she celebrated her own freedom by coming out as a lesbian, she exhorted Don to closet himself as a Christian for the sake of survival.  Likewise, he is constantly shocked by and speechless at her brass, but follows her lead and sometimes borders on using her for street cred.  I loved their dynamic.

In fact, my favorite thing about the whole movie may have been its unapologetic equal treatment given to the characters.  Lauren and the Pope were equally as likeable, flawed, intelligent, and honorable as Don and Penny.  Thus a glancing reference to Ephesians 6 became a brilliant thread from the conflict through the resolution.  In the beginning, Don’s hokey, earnest-but-missing-it youth pastor tries to protect Don from the enemy, found in sin and unbelievers, through a cheesy rendition of the armor of God.  In the end, Don comes closer to the heart of the passage: that the enemy is found not in people, but in the powers of injustice, pain, and disappointment – powers that hold sway over everyone in some area or another.  This is a message not found in many movies of any genre, and it cheered me.

Finally, I can’t talk about this movie without visiting the great confession booth scene.  I am firmly anti-spoiler, so I won’t reveal any of the details, but I will tell you I cried.  I cried for Don and his quiet acceptance.  I cried for all the people suffering from unresolved pain in the world.  Most surprisingly, I cried for myself because I want to be more like Don.  When I was navigating all of that pain and disappointment back in Sunday School, I was never brave enough to run into the world with arms wide open like he did – in rebellion or otherwise.  I simply processed and buried it and curled up on the couch, secure in my excuse to live a sheltered and ordinary life.

All of this bears much more thought and will probably resurface in future blog entries.  This one being more than long enough, I conclude now by offering public thanks here to Steve Taylor, Ben Pearson, and all those many names in the credits for bringing this project into the world – and especially to my good friend Don Miller for challenging me and calling me out and faithfully continuing to wield the pen.