Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hopeless Emptiness vs. Fullness of Hope

About a month ago one of my best girlfriends, Andy, and I went to see the movie “Revolutionary Road.” This is the first time Kate Winslet and Leonardo De Caprio have played opposite each other since the Blockbuster hit, “Titanic.” Of course I wanted to see it! It was a Sunday evening and Andy raced over to pick me up on a freezing cold Minnesota night. I was so glad her car was nice and warm when I got in side. Andy and I usually do this thing where every time we go to a movie the other one gets to pick the film. We switch on and off. Consequently, it was my turn. Andy always faults me in my movie picks. She is right to criticize. It is true that my movie picks mess us up for days. I usually pick a film that we end up thinking about the whole week; something that impacted us so, that we just can’t seem to get it off our minds. However, I quite prefer it that way. I like movies that make me feel something, otherwise what is the point? Somehow my movie picks always end us up at the Lagoon Landmark Theater uptown; the Indy Films or the ones predicted not to be so big usually play there.
Anyway, I could tell from the previews that Revolutionary Road was going to be a good one. From what I had gathered so far from the coming attractions were that this movie was about a couple who somehow how grand dreams of being different from the society they saw around them, yet they gradually and subtly became trapped in the suburban, white picket fenced, 9-5, 2.5 kid, early morning commute life they had always felt so far above. So, yes, I was interested.
The movie was quite good. I would highly recommend it. However, there was something that stuck out to me more than anything else in the film. The lady that sold them their house had a mentally sick, middle aged son. She asked “The Wheelers” if they would befriend him and have him over for supper. They agreed. When this woman comes over with her husband and son “April and Frank” (Kate and Leo) break the news that they have decided to start a new life in Paris. Of course this is a shock to all. People just didn’t do this sort of thing. It sounded crazy to everyone they told throughout the film. No one, at all, understood why they would want to do such a thing.
Yet this man who had been condemned to an insane asylum and had been given 36 electric shock treatments, so much so that all the knowledge his Ph.D. in mathematics had afforded him was gone, understood them fully well. He referred to life, as society knew it around them, as “hopeless emptiness.” Later on, after everyone had left, Frank and April looked at each other and concurred that the only one that understood where they were coming from was the one person that society had deemed insane. Interesting.
I am forced to agree with his assessment. Hopeless Emptiness describes the dark disillusionment humans face everyday in the world in which we live. Let’s take a look, no really, let’s just go there for a minute: poverty, human trafficking, government corruption, genocide, civil war, AIDS epidemic, global warming. Let’s get more specific and closer to home: Pornography is an 8 Billion dollar a year business (that is more than Coca Cola), people are loosing their homes every where we look, retirements are being cut in half due to the economy, loved ones dying from cancer…and the list goes on. Ok, now stop. We are disillusioned by what seems hopeless as a society. So what do we do? Well, quite a few things actually. All we really want and are desperate to do is numb the pain. Drinking, smoking-whatever it is you smoke-, casual sex and one night stands, incessant shopping, endless eating? Just fill in the blank. We try and escape reality by way of a lot of different things.
Sometimes the hopeless of reality in the world is too much for even me to handle. I will find myself watching TV or movies for hours on end just to get inside a different story or reality for a little while. I will watch TV/movies to the point where many important things in my life are ignored and valuable time is completely wasted. I blow off responsibilities and commitments all because I just cannot face reality at that moment. That is a huge problem. That is me being real and vulnerable (which I don’t particularly enjoy doing by the way). Yet one thing is the same for all of us. Reality is always waiting for us when we arrive back; the hopeless emptiness we have tried so hard to get away from. Ok now that we are all depressed, don’t stop reading just yet. We are just getting to the good part.
IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT. EVEN BETTER…IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT. Every single thing that is wrong in this world, Jesus of Nazareth made right. Being a Jesus follower does not mean that all the problems in this world disappear, it does mean that we are given new lenses to look at the world with.
There is this fancy word called, Epistemology. It is a philosophical term meaning “knowledge base” or “foundation of knowledge.” As a Christian, you are given a new epistemology and everything we come in contact with is filtered through that epistemology. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapter 12, he urges Christians to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our God sent Jesus to do just that. Just as the world was corrupted by the sin of Adam, the world was made guiltless in Christ. We no longer have to live with the hopelessness of death and destruction. We have promises of life and newness.
When Jesus was on earth 2,000 years ago He faced all the same issues we do today. He came to a culture that was hungry for political power and wealth, whether it being the Romans or the Jews. He came in a time where hate was a seed deeply sowed throughout society for those unlike you. He arrived to a people that had grown cold to the heart of Yahweh and disobedient to what He had asked of them. For the 1st Century Jewish people life seemed hopeless and empty. It seemed as if Roman oppression was growing stronger every day and the Jews were becoming less and less of the unique people they used to be (if they ever even were).
Jesus challenged them with a brand new epistemology. In John’s account of the Gospel in chapter 10 he tells a story of sheep and a shepherd referring to Himself as the shepherd. He says that all who came before Him are thieves and bandits and that He, Himself, is the only way to be saved from all who come to try and destroy life. Jesus says that He came to bring true life and bring it abundantly. In the 14th chapter Jesus talks about the time when He will have to leave. He tells His listeners that He will leave His peace with them. He assures that it is not the type of “peace” that the world gives, but only a peace He alone can give. He promises the Holy Spirit will come to remind them of all that He has said so they can be comforted, strengthened in their faith and so that they will not forget all He has told them.
Jesus constantly contrasted Himself up against the powers that be; whether it was the political power of Rome or the spiritual powers of darkness and sin. Jesus consistently teaches that He has come to bring a new reality; one that has not been seen before; a reality that will truly deliver, unlike the empty promises of so many before. We must believe in Jesus. We must. He is our only hope in the hopeless emptiness. He is not simply our only hope; He is the fullness of hope itself. Why fullness of hope? For so long God’s people had hoped and waited for a Messiah; the One they had been promised in the Scriptures of the First Testament. Jesus fulfilled every one of those promises. He fulfilled every statute of the Law of God and He fulfilled the insatiable appetite of death itself by rising from the dead. He fulfilled it and defied it. All that ancient Israel had hoped for Christ completely delivered.
I will close with this. In the beginning of 1 Peter the author blesses God the Father of Jesus. He writes, “By His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” He writes how all these things are being stored in heaven and protected by God to be given to us. He goes on to write, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Life in this world is still quite imperfect as we are made aware of every day. Yet we DO NOT have to succumb to the hopeless emptiness any more.
Andy was so mad at me after the movie. She tells everyone I took her to see a “horror film.” She knew it would mess her up for days as did I. I hope Andy and I will continue to go see films that mess us up and make us think. So my question to all of us is: Empty Reality or New Epistemology? Revolutionary Road. Revolutionary. Revolution.

1 comment:

Lauren Kelly said...

Maria- I just have to say I love you. Thank you for you transparency and for being real!!! :o)