Life has been quite busy. So busy that it seems I am forgetting the discipline of meditation, prayer and reflection. Busy enough that I rarely even watch a film. But last night I watched the movie Seven Pounds with Will Smith and tonight for the first time (yes, I'm behind the queue ball) Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ. These two films form an interesting contrast, though both reflect the verse from John 15, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends".
Smith plays the part of a brilliant aerospace engineer who has achieved success materially with the to die for house and career and relationally with the gorgeous fiancée. He gets along with everyone. All this comes to a crashing halt with a car accident cause by the few seconds it took to glance at a text message. In killing seven people, including his beloved soon to be wife, the main character becomes obsessed with engineering his own redemption by bestowing on seven people gifts that will change their life and his. After giving a lung to his brother, a kidney, bone marrow and his house are then given to "worthy" recipients. Having difficulty forgiving himself, he constantly contemplates suicide, but not of the usual sort. His final gifts will be his eyes and his heart...
Even though he film didn't get rave reviews, I found the story compelling if not a bit bizarre. Watching a man give bone marrow with no anesthesia was like watching the practice of self flagellation. The final scene of his writhing death by the sting of a box jellyfish very much mirrors the writhing Messiah on the way to Calvary. Certainly modern day saviors and plausible heroes are sorely needed in a culture full of pop and paparazzi; however, the differences between this Hollywood hero and the Biblical hero are significant. To find people worthy of his "gifts", the protagonist of Seven Pound must do much probing of character. There is a moral gauge each candidate must pass. One potential recipient doesn't make the grade. He was a scummy self centered bastard: in other words, a sinner just like me. By contrast, the whole beauty of the Christ message is that these are exactly the sort of folks Jesus died for. "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5: 7-8)
Although parts of Gibson's passion rendition were also a bit bizarre (the devils were freaky), he certainly gets the point of Christ's suffering across; the realism is sobering. Where in the crowd would I have been? Skeptic or disciple, one can't deny the profound impact this act has had over countless lives over two-thousand some odd years.
As far as the spiritual message goes, whether you judge each film by it's compelling plot or it's life changing story, I think I'll take the Savior that died for unworthy people like me. Like the robber on his left, it is the repentance piece that is the most liberating of all. Knowing Jesus paid the full price of sin on the cross, can the pain of a false step, bad choice or premeditated evil be assuaged? Would the seven pounds have had to be paid? Admirable, but not necessary.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
eü·phö’ri·a, n [Mod. L., from Gr. euphoria, the power of bearing easily. From euphoros bearing well; eu- well, and pherein, to bear.] a feeling of well-being; especially in psychology, an abnormal feeling of buoyant vigor and health.
I guess I was feeling abnormal after my run today…
After a long spell of some snow and then arctic temperatures, the omen of 50 degrees tempted me back onto my trails—the same trails I had been out on with cross country skis not two weeks before. My one previous running trial just two days before had yielded a dead end when, reaching an early stream crossing where high waters and icy rocks ruled, I was obliged to go back tracking. So today, I avoided that crossing, taking another route, determined to make one of my favorite loops, albeit slightly abbreviated. Being careful of several initial icy patches, the high route on the Patapsco ridge proved clear. In fact, it was so clear on this fourteenth day of January that I had a strange association. The stark towering trees joined with the dirt path and brown leaves surrounding caused me to recall the same feeling I had as a child receiving the ashes on that seventh Wednesday before Easter: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” Yes, nature, too, must experience death in the cycle of life. At forty-eight, I still feel pretty young, most days. But being a realist keeps a sober edge.
I continued on. As the sinewy path ebbed and flowed back around the ridge into the valley many more ice patches kept me on guard. All the sudden, it was winter again. In the white beauty that shone around me, I again had an interesting notion. The White Witch of Narnia fame was haunting beautiful as is the snow and the ice that visit habitable places in season. But in the momentary wonder, the hope of spring is always somewhere lurking in the background. We can bear the cold and the isolation because there is always hope of warm sun and greener days. When a gorgeous ice falls jumped into my view, I had to shout, “Thank you, Lord!” and what else could be said? The slippery path slowed my pace and the crisp wind warmed my cheeks. Buoyant vigor and health should be the norm of our existence. But then, like the seasons, sometimes the change in scenery helps sharpen senses and deepen our appreciation for the important things of life…